HC Deb 19 April 1999 vol 329 c566
21. Mr. Nigel Griffiths (Edinburgh, South)

What support is being given to people with disabilities who wish to move from welfare to work. [79749]

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

Our strategy for helping people with disabilities who want to work involves a number of initiatives. We are providing active help and encouragement for people to move towards work; we are addressing barriers to work in the benefit system; we are taking steps to make sure that work pays; and we are promoting radical change in the workplace to ensure equality and opportunity.

Mr. Griffiths

I welcome that answer from the Minister, but does he share the concern of disabled people who move into work that if they are not successful in retaining their place, they may be forced to suffer a reduction in benefits, which they feel to be wrong? What proposals do the Government have to tackle that fear?

Mr. Bayley

I share the fear that my hon. Friend has expressed. It is an important point, and it is one of the reasons why, last autumn, the Government extended the linking rule for incapacity benefit from the eight weeks that we had inherited to 52 weeks, so that people may start a job in the knowledge that, if it does not work out—because their health does not permit them to carry on working or for any other reason—they can return to the higher rate of incapacity benefit without waiting for the normal qualification period.

We are introducing on a pilot basis—in the Lothian region among other places—several other measures to make it easier for disabled people to come off benefits and go into work with confidence, not least a work trial of up to three weeks in which someone can enter the labour market, undertake a job but remain on benefits for the first three weeks to see whether that job works out.