HC Deb 19 April 1999 vol 329 cc558-9
6. Ms Christine Russell (City of Chester)

What training his Department plans to give to personal advisers working for the new deal for the disabled. [79733]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Mr. Hugh Bayley)

The new deal for disabled people is a joint initiative between the Department of Social Security and the Department for Education and Employment. The Benefits Agency is providing training to help advisers give accurate advice about benefit issues and to provide "better off" calculations for clients who are thinking of taking up work. That supports the wider range of training that is being provided by the Employment Service and the Department for Education and Employment, which are responsible for delivering the service.

Ms Russell

Is my hon. Friend aware of the level of expertise that exists already in the voluntary sector? Those with such expertise have already done good work in helping to break down attitudinal barriers to work and to create better access to the workplace. What plans does my hon. Friend have to harness the good work done by the voluntary sector to help in the new deal for getting disabled people back to the workplace?

Mr. Bayley

My hon. Friend raises an important point, with which I have a great deal of sympathy, having worked in the voluntary sector myself. The voluntary sector has made a huge contribution to the Government's welfare reform proposals through its membership of the disability benefits forum, and has provided advice on the training programme specifically for personal advisers. My hon. Friend will be interested to learn that the Department has just agreed the secondment of a director of one of those voluntary bodies to provide advice in this area.

Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury)

I understand that, in future, people with disabilities, if they want to claim benefit, will have to attend a work-focused interview with a personal adviser. Will the Minister explain the subsequent procedures relating to entitlement—one goes for the interview, but what happens then? I suspect that we shall all have people coming to our constituency surgeries asking for advice, so it would be helpful if the Minister explained the processes relating to this and other benefits in respect of which people will have to attend a work-related interview.

Mr. Bayley

The point of the single work-focused gateway is to provide a common point of access to the benefits system, whereby members of the public will receive advice on both benefit entitlement and the assistance that the Government can give to help people into work. Benefit claims will be processed in the normal way, which varies from one benefit to another. The idea is to provide a service that is better, clearer and easier for the public to use.

Back to