HC Deb 21 October 2002 vol 391 cc12-3
9. Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East)

What assessment he has made of the impact of the new deal for disabled people. [73068]

The Minister for Work (Mr. Nicholas Brown)

The new deal for disabled people is the first national employment programme specifically designed to help people with disabilities move into and keep jobs. Since the national extension of the programme began, it has helped over 4,000 people into jobs and more than 20,000 have registered with job brokers to actively pursue employment. We are working closely with job brokers, and are keen to make improvements to the new deal for disabled people as we proceed. As the NDDP progresses, a comprehensive programme of evaluation will measure the impact, and a report of that evaluation will be published.

Dr. Iddon

The new deal for disabled people started in Bolton as a pilot scheme in 1998, and has now been rolled out to include Bury and Salford. I am pleased to say that last month was the most successful ever, with 45 people entering employment. Is my right hon. Friend aware, however, that many people with disabilities, especially those on incapacity benefit, are not engaging with the NDDP because they fear losing their benefits? Will he make it clear to those people that they can work therapeutically, without loss of benefits, and that in-work benefits are also available to people with disabilities?

Mr. Brown

The combination of tax credits and the new earnings rules amounts to an attractive package. I do not think that the situation is well enough understood—we need to do more to explain the current circumstances—and I agree that people fear loss of benefits. They also fear that if they take on a job, perhaps part time, it may be difficult for them to return to benefits. In particular, people worry about housing benefit and council tax rebates, and if they have children, they worry about losing free school dinners.

These are important issues. We want those who have tried work and been unable to sustain it to be able to return to benefits, and not to be disadvantaged by having tried work; but of course we still have some way to go to ensure that we can actually deliver that.

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