Return to Work

Work and Pensions written question – answered at on 31 January 2005.

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Photo of Mr Tom Cox Mr Tom Cox Labour, Tooting

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to help disabled people within the Greater London area return to work; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Although there is nothing specific to London, there are a number of programmes designed to help disabled people return to work which are available to disabled people within the Greater London area.

Since 1 October 2004 the employment provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) have applied to all employers, with the exception of the armed forces.

The ending of the exclusion from the employment provisions of employers with fewer than 15 staff brings into coverage a further one million small employers with seven million further jobs in which 600,000 disabled people already work.

During 2004 the Department undertook a major campaign to raise awareness of the DDA particularly among small and medium-sized businesses. Around a million businesses were directly mailed information; this was supported by radio advertising, press articles in specialist and trade press and website fact sheets. A free information pack with video is also available and the second presentation of the 'Access All Areas' awards, which congratulates small service providers who have made services more accessible, took place in November 2004.

Initiatives which seek to enhance the employability of disabled people include the use of Jobcentre Plus Disability Employment Advisers who visit employers and advise them on the support and help available in the employment of disabled people and the Job Introduction Scheme (JIS) which aims to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities by offering a weekly grant, currently £75 per week, to employers during the first six weeks of their employment.

New Deal for Disabled People (NDDP) is designed to support people in receipt of disability or health-related benefits in finding and sustaining paid employment. It is delivered through a network of Job Brokers across England, Scotland and Wales who agree with each customer what is the most appropriate route into employment for them and work closely with providers of training and other provision where the customer needs additional help. NDDP Job Brokers were introduced in July 2001 and to September 2004 the programme showed 115,930 registrations with Job Brokers and over 54,000 job entries.

In addition there are a number of other programmes designed to help disabled people return to work which are available to disabled people within the Greater London area.

Access to Work is a specialist disability programme which provides practical advice and support to help disabled people enter or stay in paid employment. The support is aimed at overcoming work related obstacles resulting from disability. It does this through a system of grants towards the cost of providing support. Access to Work is open to those who are employed as well as people moving out of unemployment and is a highly effective job retention measure.

Work Preparation is a highly flexible programme open to benefit recipients (incapacity or unemployment-related benefits) and non-benefit recipients. It is an individually tailored, work-focused programme that enables disabled people to address barriers associated with their disability and prepare for work with the confidence necessary to achieve and sustain their job goals. The vast majority of Work Preparation programmes take the form of short unpaid work placements.

WORKSTEP was introduced in April 2001 to modernise the former Supported Employment Programme. It provides job support to over 30,000 people in employment and in this financial year up to October 2004 just under 900 clients had progressed into open unsupported work. In 2003–04 it held a budget of £163 million, and it is delivered by over 200 providers, including Remploy, in England, Scotland and Wales. WORKSTEP is managed by Jobcentre Plus and involves a three-way partnership between the employer, the WORKSTEP provider and a disabled person.

People receiving incapacity benefit can do permitted work and keep benefit in some circumstances. The pre-Budget report announced new national measures for improving permitted work provision including an extension of the initial period of permitted work from 26weeks to 52 weeks in all cases and an expansion of permitted work provisions to people facing the greatest barriers to full-time employment.

People with the most limiting conditions such as advanced progressive conditions will be covered by a widened version of the permitted work provisions and be able to work for a longer period of time while maintaining their entitlement to benefit. The new measures will improve take-up and provide better support on entry to permitted work through face-to-face meetings with personal advisers including a requirement for clients to consider the prospects of a move into full-time employment, but only where they are able to do so.

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