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This page brings you DWP news and announcements.
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Real help for over 60s

23 June 2009

When times are tough it is important people know where to turn to get all the help and advice they need. That is why the Government has today launched a booklet for people aged over 60 pulling together in one place all the help that is available to them.

The 40-page booklet “Real Help Now for over 60s” provides information on everything you need to know from claiming Pension Credit, to help with your fuel bills, to help in taking that course on IT you’ve always wanted to do.

DWP sickness absence statistics to 31 March 2009

18 June 2009

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has reported its latest quarterly figures on the level of sickness absence in its workforce to the Cabinet Office. In the 12 months to 31 March 2009, the average level of recorded sickness absence was 8.9 days annually per staff year. This is a reduction of 0.4 days from the previous report for December and a reduction of 1.2 days from the corresponding figure one year ago. DWP has now reported a reduction in sickness absence for six successive quarters.

National Insurance Recording System upgrade – effect on DWP services

12 June 2009

New customers may experience slight disruption to our services in June as a result of an upgrade to HMRC's National Insurance Recording System. Our staff often access the NIRS database to help process certain contribution based benefits such as Jobseekers Allowance (JSA), Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and the state pension.

The system will be unavailable to DWP staff between noon on 19 June until noon on 24 June (within HMRC it will be down for longer). During this time current customers should be unaffected, but new JSA and ESA customers will be asked to provide their P60 (annual pay statement) so that staff can establish details of their National Insurance records and assess their entitlement to benefit. Where someone is not able to provide a P60 they may be asked for wage slips or full details of previous employment so that we can write to their employer for the information. Other than the customer being asked to provide their P60 during this period there should be no other changes to our services.

Existing payments of pensions will not be affected and state pension applications and changes can still be made, however online pension forecasting will not be available for the period of the disruption. This service will still be available on telephone at 0845 3000168.

The system, once upgraded, will provide a much more efficient service to both our customers and HMRC's. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

DWP sickness absence statistics

The Department for Work and Pensions has reported its latest quarterly figures on the level of sickness absence in its workforce to the Cabinet Office. In the 12 months up to 31 December 2008, the average level of recorded sickness absence was 9.3 days annually per staff year. This reflects a decrease on the 9.6 days reported in December for the year up to 30 September 2008; sickness absence in the Department has now fallen for five consecutive quarters.

The Department's Head of Health, Safety and Wellbeing, Jonathan Russell said: "This continued improvement is welcome and is a tribute to the efforts our people are making to manage sickness absences. Nevertheless, we will continue our efforts to further reduce sickness absence, through our Wellbeing framework, effective health and safety management, and dealing with attendance issues promptly and constructively."

Make a splash with free swimming

31 March 2009

More than 20 million people can swim for free in England from 1 April.

As part of the Government’s free swimming programme, almost 300 local councils are providing swimming free of charge for people 60 and over. More than 200 of those also offer free swimming to 16s and under.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions James Purnell said:

"Swimming is an excellent way to keep fit and healthy in later life and that’s why the DWP is contributing £22m towards the Government's free swimming initiative. I know many over 60s enjoy making a splash in their local pool, and from today I hope that millions more will be able to take the plunge."

A stronger voice for older people

3 February 2009

Older people are to have a bigger say in developing central, regional and local Government policies announced Rt Hon Rosie Winterton, Minister for Pensions and the Ageing Society today, in response to John Elbourne’s review of older people’s engagement with Government.

A new national UK Advisory Forum on Ageing will give older people a direct line to Government to comment on new policy ideas, services, legislation and what areas they feel the Government needs to address. The Forum will have a clear focus on helping to improve the wellbeing of older people and addressing the opportunities and challenges of an ageing society.

Support for Mortgage Interest – update

27 January 2009

If a homeowner with a mortgage gets Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or Pension Credit, their benefit may include an additional element called Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI). SMI is meant to assist the homeowner with the interest on their mortgage. SMI is calculated using a standard interest rate.

On 24 November 2008, the Chancellor made clear in the Pre-Budget Report that the Government will maintain the level of support for mortgage interest based on a standard interest rate of 6.08 per cent for six months.

Some people will experience a temporary drop below 6.08 per cent because our IT systems normally track the Bank of England base rate, which was reduced from 6 November. It takes time to adapt our IT systems, but we are taking urgent action to ensure that customers do not lose out, and that cases are corrected to reflect the Chancellor’s commitment. Overall people will receive 6.08 per cent support.

More information on SMI

New Opportunities webchat

20 January 2009

Liam Byrne, Minister for the Cabinet Office, took questions on social mobility and the Government's New Opportunities White Paper in a live Number 10 webchat on 20 January 2009.

Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI)

16 January 2009

Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) can be paid to people on Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance and Pension Credit if they are experiencing problems with the interest payments on their mortgage.

On 2 September the Government announced reforms to the system to more accurately reflect the value of people’s property and reduce the waiting time before help from SMI kicks in.

From 5 January 2009:

Pensioners getting Pension Credit do not have to wait to get help with their mortgage interest payments.

From 5 January 2009 there will be a time limit on SMI of 104 weeks for new Jobseeker’s Allowance claims only. Time-limiting will not apply to existing claims or to new claims for Income Support, Pension Credit or income-related Employment and Support Allowance.

The Government will keep this system of support under review.

If you are of working age you can also telephone or visit your local Jobcentre Plus office. Whether you are already working or looking for work, the staff there will be able to tell you about any benefits you can claim.

Find your nearest office in the phone book or visit the Jobcentre Plus website.

Building fair chances for the future

13 January 2009

Plans to create opportunity and ensure people have the best chance of fulfilling their potential in the future have been launched today by the Prime Minister. The New Opportunities White Paper sets out the Government's agenda for capturing the jobs of the future and investing in families, communities and citizens throughout their lives to help them get on and get ahead.

Government helps people back to work

12 January 2009

Jobseekers who find themselves unemployed for more than six months will be guaranteed more support, so they can get back into work, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions told an Employment Summit led by the Prime Minister today.

The proposals, which will see £0.5bn invested over two years, will be targeted at those who have been out of the job market for six months or more.

As well as extra funds for Jobcentre Plus to provide every jobseeker who has been out of work for six months more intensive and personalised support, the package will include giving individuals access to "Employers’ Golden Hellos", new training places and cash to start-up your own business.