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Benefits

Volume 451: debated on Monday 30 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 1 February 2006, Official Report, column 590W, on benefits, what assessment he has made of the impact of widening the housing benefit extended payment scheme from April 2004 to include those in receipt of (a) incapacity benefit and (b) severe disablement allowance; and if he will make a statement. (96068)

From April 2004 we widened the scope of extended payments by introducing a parallel scheme for people moving into work from either incapacity benefit or severe disablement allowance. In 2005, it is estimated that 5,000 customers or their partners who received either incapacity benefit or severe disablement allowance received an extended payment when they moved off benefit and into employment.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the implications for claimants of being changed from severe disablement allowance to incapacity benefit; and whether this change will result in the loss of eligibility for (a) housing benefit and (b) passported benefits associated with housing benefit. (96262)

New claims to severe disablement allowance were stopped on 6 April 2001. From that date new customers need to apply for incapacity benefit or income support on grounds of incapacity. At that time youth rules were introduced to incapacity benefit, whereby those incapable of work before the age of 20 (25 years old in certain circumstances) are eligible for the benefit without needing to meet the national insurance contribution condition.

Existing severe disablement allowance customers, apart from those aged under 20 years old on 5 April 2001, have not been transferred onto incapacity benefit. Instead payment of severe disablement allowance continues as long as the benefit conditions continue to be satisfied.

Entitlement to severe disablement allowance does not passport its recipients to other benefits, such as housing benefit, in the way that income support and income related jobseeker's allowance do. Many customers on severe disablement allowance may also qualify for income support and so be passported to other benefits in that way. People on severe disablement allowance with a low income, but not also receiving income support would need to be considered for housing benefit on low-income grounds.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what are the earnings disregards for those benefits for which he is responsible expressed in (a) cash terms, (b) real terms with 1997 as the base year and (c) terms of hours of work at present minimum wage rates. (92806)

Earnings disregards apply to all income related benefits: income support; jobseeker's allowance; pension credit; housing benefit and council tax benefit.

Benefits rates are set for the financial year, not the calendar year, and with 1997-98 as the base year, the real terms amounts of the earnings disregards are set out in the table together with the current rates

Earnings disregards in income related benefits cash and real terms

£

Cash terms

Real terms1

Standard earnings (single)

5.00

4.00

Couples earnings

10.00

7.90

Disabled, or carer

20.00

15.90

Lone parent (not HB/CTB)

20.00

15.90

Lone parent (HB/CTB only)

25.00

19.80

HB/CTB 16/ to 30-hour disregard

14.90

11.80

HB/CTB childcare disregard one child

175.00

138.80

HB/CTB childcare disregard two+ children

300.00

238.00

1 Deflated by RPI, base year: 1997-98

Notes:

1. Forecast RPI for 2006-07, from Budget 2006

2. The first three disregards apply to all income related benefits.

3. There are different lone parent rates for housing benefit (HB) and council tax benefit (CTB).

4. The last four disregards apply to HB and CTB only.

There are three levels of the national minimum wage. The rates from 1 October 2006 are: £5.35 per hour for workers aged 22 years and older; a development rate of £4.45 per hour for workers aged 18-21 years inclusive; and £3.30 per hour which applies to all workers under the age of 18 who are no longer of compulsory school age.

At the £5.35 per hour rate, the number of hours required to reach the earnings disregard level for each type of disregard ranges from one hour for a claimant on the standard earnings disregard, to five hours for a lone parent on housing benefit or council tax benefit. However, at 16 hours, such a lone parent would also qualify for an additional earnings disregard amount of £14.90.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the extent to which the bereavement benefits scheme treats men and women equally. (92907)

Bereavement benefits are payable to both men and women.

They provide fast and direct financial help for immediate needs following bereavement, for widows, widowers and surviving civil partners alike.