Clause 2

Part of Welfare Reform Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 24th February 2009.

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Photo of Paul Rowen Paul Rowen Shadow Work and Pensions Minister 4:00 pm, 24th February 2009

I wish to speak to amendments 47, 50, 51 and 52, all of which I tabled. They deal with certain categories of people with mental health needs.

Any direction relating to specific work-related activity should take account of a person’s mental health and concurrent needs. This relates to our issues with the qualifications of Jobcentre Plus staff and the way in which they will make directions when making decisions regarding work-related activity. Employment advisers should take a person’s mental health into account when drawing up action plans or programmes of activity, and amendment 47 has been designed to protect claimants with mental health problems from being asked to undertake an activity that might be harmful to their health.

Amendment 50 relates to schedule 1. Although we had this discussion earlier, it is clear that mental health illnesses fluctuate for many people. It would be wrong if an individual’s fluctuating mental health was not treated as a good cause for not attending a work-focused interview. We wish to put protection for people in that position in the Bill. Were such a person to fail to attend an interview, one of the good causes accepted without argument should be that that person has a fluctuating mental health illness—we think that that is reasonable. We would expect the personal adviser to accept that and thus not to consider applying sanctions.