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Benefit Payments

Volume 412: debated on Friday 11 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions which non-governmental bodies are being consulted about the details of the exceptions service for people who are unable or unwilling to have their benefits paid direct into a bank account. [107410]

The Department regularly consults with a range of non-governmental bodies, representing the interests of some of our most vulnerable customers. These discussions will help inform the development of a method of payment for those customers whose benefits cannot be paid directly into an account.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what arrangements are in place to ensure that benefit payments are paid without interruption to people who change bank accounts. [107411]

If a customer wishes to change bank accounts for receipt of benefit, they need to notify the Department in writing. Staff are instructed to take immediate action on receipt of the customer's new account details to ensure there is no interruption to benefit. If the customer needs time to change account details, payment by an alternative method can be arranged to ensure continuity of benefit.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to his answer of 20 March 2003 to the hon. Member for Northavon (Mr. Webb), Official Report, column 917W, on benefit recipients, how many of the people contacted in the follow-up calls to those who had not responded to the letter about direct payment of benefits have since indicated an intention to move away from paper-based payment methods; and how many of them have opted for a Post Office card account. [107516]

As at 27 March 2003, approximately 150,000 customers have been contacted as part of the follow-up procedures for those customers who have not responded to the initial Direct Payment mailing. So far around 52,000 positive contacts have been made, and of this number, around 6,000 customers have requested a Post Office card account.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to his answer of 20 March 2003 to the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Hepburn), Official Report, column 911W, on benefits payments, how many benefit recipients there are in each constituency in Great Britain; and how many of them collect their benefits from post offices, excluding those who use network banking arrangements. [107561]

The information has been placed in the Library. The information is from figures based on information available at 22 February 2003.Information is held on the method of payment on individual benefit records. Some benefits are payable directly into bank or building society accounts and some are only able to be cashed at a post office. Giro cheques. however, may either be cashed at a post office, or paid into a bank or building society. For the purposes of this question, Giro cheques have been included as payments collected from post offices.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the potential effects on post offices of direct bank payment of benefits. [108227]

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what measures he has taken to promote post offices as a continuing option for receiving benefits payments. [108228]

We will write to customers when it is their turn to change their method of payment. Customers will be supplied directly with information which clearly sets out their account options and enables them to decide which account is right for them. All our material mentions Post Office access.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to his written answer of 31 March 2003, Official Report, column 607W, whether he plans to offer weekly benefit payments by direct payment to new recipients of retirement pension and child benefit. [108817]

From this year, customers will be able to receive payments by Direct Payment on a weekly, fortnightly, four-weekly, 13-weekly or yearly basis. The precise frequency will depend on the payment rules which apply to the particular benefit they are receiving. New recipients of Retirement Pension will be able to receive their pension weekly by Direct Payment should they choose. New Child Benefit customers will need to meet the criteria that currently exists to qualify for weekly payments.