HC Deb 25 October 1999 vol 336 cc702-4
14. Mr. David Watts (St. Helens, North)

What lessons his Department has drawn from the working of the new deal for the disabled in helping disabled people obtain employment. [93761]

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

There is clear evidence that the new deal for disabled people is helping people to move from incapacity benefit into work. One thousand people have found jobs through these new deal pilots so far.

Mr. Watts

I thank the Minister for his reply. May I ask my hon. Friend to ensure that any problems that have been highlighted during the pilot scheme are resolved before the scheme goes national? Given the concern about the closure of Remploy factories, will he give me a guarantee that when the new system is up and running, when pilot schemes are extended, and when there are new deals for the disabled throughout the country, there will be better, not fewer, options for the disabled?

Mr. Bayley

Yes, I can give my hon. Friend those assurances. We have learned a great deal from the new deal pilots. We have found that it is possible to help people with a wide range of disabilities, including some who have been extremely seriously disabled. When I visited one of the pilots a few weeks ago in the north of Scotland, I met a man who had been unemployed because of incapacity for 29 years. The new deal had provided him with an opportunity that he had sought for a long time—the opportunity to work.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment is making available additional resources to pay for supported employment. That will help Remploy and other organisations that are providing supported employment.

Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry)

Will the Minister ensure that he takes more seriously than it has been taken before the research commissioned from the Institute for Employment Studies that suggests an alarming shortfall in future supported employment placements? The figures suggest that there may be a deficiency of between 40,000, on a narrow estimate, and up to 179,000, on a broad estimate, of potential future demand for supported places. Will he therefore ensure that if he implements a national roll-out of the new deal for disabled people, he and his colleagues will provide the places before the scheme comes into effect, so that they do not disappoint the many disabled people who would wish to avail themselves of those places?

Mr. Bayley

There is certainly a need to provide supported employment, but it would be wrong to characterise the new deal as a scheme that simply provides opportunities for people to work on Government-financed or Government-subsidised schemes. It is far wider than that. We have to ensure that work pays by changing the benefit and tax systems that we inherited; and we have to ensure that people who are disabled and seek work get the personal advice and support that they need to obtain employment. We are doing that. We must ensure that barriers to work—some employers are good but others are much poorer—are removed, which we are doing through the disability discrimination legislation. We must advance on all fronts, and we are doing so.