HC Deb 04 May 2000 vol 349 cc275-6
1. Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston)

If he will make a statement on the role of the new job retention pilots. [119615]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Ms Margaret Hodge)

The pilots will develop effective ways to prevent people having to give up work because of illness and disability. Each week, about 3,000 people are forced to stop working for those reasons and only 300 will ever work again; that is an unacceptable waste of talent. We will announce our detailed plans for the pilots in the summer.

Mr. Miller

I welcome my hon. Friend's statement. However, we really need a cultural change. Will she join me in urging employers' organisations to bring about such a change so as to make it possible for people who develop disabilities to retain their jobs?

Ms Hodge

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend that we require a cultural change. Some employers are working closely with us and on their own to ensure that they employ more disabled people. For example, Centrica in Manchester has worked with us on a pilot; the company has taken on 50 disabled people. May I share a little story with the House, Madam Speaker? It is a good one. When I visited Centrica, I met a man, who had been out of work for five years—this is not very funny—who had a hearing impairment. He was given work by Centrica, who told me—surprise, surprise—that his productivity was double that of any of his co-workers. What was especially warm and heartening was that three of the people at his workstation were learning how to sign. That is exactly the social and economic inclusion to which we aspire.