HC Deb 05 July 1999 vol 334 cc636-7
15. Mrs. Joan Humble (Blackpool, North and Fleetwood)

What progress his Department is making with integrating the delivery of its services to the public with services offered by other parts of Government. [88040]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Angela Eagle)

This Department is making substantial progress in planning the integration of its services to customers through a modern service programme which will deliver business change and enhance information technology support. Our primary focus at the moment is the ONE project pilots, which commenced on 28 June, in which we are ensuring the delivery of work-focused benefit services and promoting partnership, working with the Benefits Agency, the Employment Service and local authorities.

Mrs. Humble

I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware of how confusing and time consuming it is for many disabled people in particular to try to access different Government Departments and local authority departments. What plans does my hon. Friend have to ensure that areas such as Blackpool, which are not part of the pilot for the ONE service, have a single gateway to enable disabled people to access all the services that they need?

Angela Eagle

We are hoping to learn from the ONE pilots how we can offer the service throughout the country. We are doing other things to try to integrate interdepartmental working, and the work of local authorities and the agencies of Departments. That includes the presence in all 349 local authorities of remote access terminals which allow people to look at the information we have to ensure that they can process housing benefit correctly. I assure my hon. Friend that the benefits of integration will be coming to all areas of the country as soon as we can ensure that that can be done practically.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East)

As the Government are doing such a good job in integrating the services offered by different Departments, will the Minister have a word with the Secretary of State for Health and advise him that by focusing on the numbers on waiting lists, he is making waiting times longer, and thus adding tremendously to the social security bill?

Angela Eagle

The hon. Gentleman should know that both waiting times and waiting lists are falling.