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Volume 407: debated on Monday 23 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if it is his policy to make regular deductions from benefits payments of people in receipt of certain benefits (a) to repay debt and (b) to pay for current energy consumption. [120594]

The Third Party Deduction Scheme provides protection as a last resort for vulnerable people with fuel debt who are threatened with the disconnection of a fuel supply.Deductions may be made from income support or, in some cases, from jobseeker's allowance, for both arrears and current fuel consumption. These deductions are paid direct to the fuel supplier until the debt is cleared. Where people have a history of chronic mismanagement of fuel or utility bills, deductions may continue for current consumption. Either the benefit recipient who has accrued fuel arrears or their supplier may ask to take part in the scheme.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to his answer of 3 June 2003, ref 115520, what plans he has to institute mechanisms for the collection of information on (a) the numbers of claimants delayed from claiming benefits in the previous 12 months because the nature of their incapacity prevented them from claiming and (b) how long that delay was. [118237]

There is a three-month time limit for claiming incapacity benefit, and a rule whereby a claim for income support can be backdated for up to three months where the person making the claim is ill or disabled (and it has not been reasonably practicable to obtain help in making the claim earlier). These rules make the system relatively simple to operate and for people to understand, while also emphasising the importance of people making their claims promptly.We have no plans to extend benefit claim forms in order to gather information about those for whom there has been a delay in making a claim. However, we are in the process of amending the claim forms for incapacity benefits (SC1, SSP1 and IB (Y)) to include more information about the time limits for claiming.