HC Deb 19 June 2000 vol 352 cc12-4
8. Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East)

What progress has been made with the new deal for the disabled. [124952]

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

The results from the measures being piloted under the new deal for disabled people are very encouraging. Already, more than 3,000 disabled people have started work. We have announced the first stage of work to build on the success of the pilot studies, which were held in Bolton and elsewhere, and to develop nationwide services.

Dr. Iddon

Will my hon. Friend join me in thanking Peter Jones and his staff at the Bolton pilot scheme, who have seen almost 800 clients to date? Of those, 201 have been helped into work, 66 have been helped into education or work-based experience, and 28 have been helped to find voluntary work. However, is not it just as important to prevent people losing their jobs? For example, what policies are being developed to ensure that people who become disabled at work stay with their firms?

Mr. Bayley

I do congratulate Peter Jones and his colleagues in Bolton, and I know from the visit that I made to the pilot that it is working extremely well. Moreover, I want to highlight how particularly impressed I was by the steps being taken to get the message of what the new deal has to offer across to Bolton's large ethnic minority population. I know that those efforts have attracted good publicity in the local ethnic community media.

In Budget 2000, the Government announced plans for job retention and rehabilitation pilots to help people who become ill in work. Those pilots will begin next year and will test the effectiveness of early, work-focused help involving health and employment services.

Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry)

We welcome the gradual and rather belated move towards a national roll-out of the new deal for disabled people. However, given the need for extreme sensitivity and for expert advice linked to the specific impairment of a disabled individual, will the Minister tell the House what hard lessons he has learned from the pilots about the handling of disabled people for new deal purposes? What clear targets will he set for the scheme when it becomes national?

Mr. Bayley

I am delighted to hear a welcome from the Conservative Benches for the new deal, as they have in the past opposed it. We needed to pilot the new deal because the performance of the Conservatives in providing employment opportunities for disabled people was lamentable. Under the Conservatives, the number of people on incapacity benefit trebled. People were simply parked on benefits rather than being given the opportunity to get back into work.

The Government's labour force survey shows that 1 million people on incapacity benefit say that they want to get back into work. It is those people on whom we are concentrating with the new deal.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge and Chryston)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government have every reason for taking credit for the very positive contribution of the new deal to finding jobs for disabled people? Given the renaissance of Remploy, will my hon. Friend and his colleagues continue to consult colleagues in the Department for Education and Employment so that they, too, can benefit from initiatives on the new deal in the interests of work and opportunities in their field?

Mr. Bayley

Supported employment plays an important part in providing the job opportunities that the new deal seeks to open up and make available to disabled people. I work extremely closely with the Minister for Employment, Welfare to Work and Equal Opportunities on this and other issues. We are joint stakeholders, and equally committed to the new deal for disabled people.

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