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Pensioners

Volume 449: debated on Tuesday 25 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what percentage of pensioners’ homes did not meet the Decent Homes Standard in the last period for which figures are available. (87286)

The information is not available. The Decent Homes Standard applies only to social housing. The Interim House Condition Survey identified 32,000 homes as failing to meet the Standard but did not disaggregate the figures into particular age categories.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what estimate he has made of the number of pensioners in Northern Ireland who have home internet access. (87290)

While it is currently not possible to specify the exact number of pensioners in Northern Ireland who have home internet access, the most recent NISRA Omnibus Survey (March 2006) indicates that some 11 per cent. of respondents aged 65 and over in Northern Ireland claim to access the internet from home. This rises to 14 per cent. who regularly make use of the internet and 24 per cent. who have access to an internet-enabled PC.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what estimate he has made of the average amount pensioners in Northern Ireland spend on (a) food and non-alcoholic drink, (b) electricity and (c) fuel each week. (87292)

Average weekly expenditure for pensioner households in Northern Ireland on the following commodities/services are as follows:

Expenditure (£)

Food and non-alcoholic drinks

24.90

Electricity

6.00

Fuel (other fuels and gas)

10.70

Source: Northern Ireland Expenditure and Food Survey (EPS) 2004-05.

The definition of a pensioner household and the expenditure categories detailed in the table are consistent with those published for the UK, by the Office for National Statistics, in ‘Family Spending: A report on the 2004-05 Expenditure and Food Survey’.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many and what percentage of pensioner households in each parliamentary constituency in Northern Ireland are classified as fuel poor. (87293)

The 2004 Interim House Condition Survey collected fuel poverty information on a Northern Ireland wide basis. Due to the small sample size it is not possible to break down the information into parliamentary constituency or district council area. The Survey did, however, indicate that 54 per cent. (82,310) of fuel poor households are headed by someone aged 60 or over.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what percentage of pensioners in Northern Ireland did not take up their eligibility to (a) pension credit and (b) housing benefit in each of the last five years; and what steps he is taking to ensure pensioners are informed of their benefit entitlements. (87294)

It is not possible to provide estimates of pensioners in Northern Ireland who did not take up their eligibility to pension credit and housing benefit.

Benefit uptake

The Social Security Agency (SSA) promotes the range of benefits for pensioners through pension tele-centres in Belfast and Londonderry, the internet, promotional leaflets and regional benefit uptake events. A network of pension advisers is also located in its 35 jobs and benefit offices/social security offices.

The 2005-06 Benefit Uptake Strategy piloted a number of exercises targeting 3,750 pensioners offering them a comprehensive benefit assessment. Of those targeted by the 2005-06 strategy 10 per cent. made successful claims; resulting in £400,000 paid in arrears and an average weekly increase of £30 for each successful customer amounting to additional yearly benefit spend of £575,000.

The 2006-07 expanded programme is targeting 35,000 clients including older people, people with disabilities and carers. Of the 35,000 clients being targeted 33,000 are older people.

The SSA has been working in partnership with the NI Housing Executive (NIHE) to promote uptake of housing benefit (HB) among the elderly. An exercise last year identified those in receipt of pension credit (PC), living in rented accommodation but not receiving HB. 23,765 people were contacted by the Agency and invited to apply for HB with the latest figures indicating 6,071 applications issued, with 3,923 (65 per cent.) having been returned and passed to either the NIHE or Rate Collection Agency for assessment.

All new PC claimants are now also invited to apply for HB when making their claim for PC.