HC Deb 21 October 2002 vol 391 cc15-6
11. Mr. Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh, North and Leith)

If he will extend the categories of those people with disabilities who may undertake supported permitted work. [73070]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Maria Eagle)

The new permitted work rules give everyone claiming benefit because of a health condition or disability the opportunity to try out work without fear of losing their benefit. That is designed to be a stepping stone to full-time work—that is, work of more than 16 hours a week.

We responded to concerns raised during the consultation on the change by widening the rules to maintain the position of people with special needs who are supported in work by professional health or care workers. We will evaluate the permitted work rules over the next 18 months to see whether further improvements are required.

Mr. Lazarowicz

I thank my hon. Friend for her answer and her indication that she will evaluate the way the rules work. In that evaluation, will she consider the cases of claimants who, under the old rules, could have undertaken paid therapeutic work while receiving incapacity benefit, but are unable to do so under the new rules, because they do not fall within the new definition of supported permitted work? That is because the work that they do does not easily fall into the categories of support that are normally given by local authorities. The same applies to voluntary organisations. She is aware of a case in my constituency, on which I have corresponded with her and her colleagues. Will she re-examine it, and also consider in the evaluation the detail of the wider issues raised by my constituent's case?

Maria Eagle

I am aware of the case to which my hon. Friend refers, and I have a great deal of sympathy for his constituent and the position in which she finds herself. I hope that he will come to see me about the case, so that I can see what we can do to help his constituent. I am also happy to tell him that I will consider the issue that he raises to see how widespread it is in the new scheme and what, if anything, ought to be done about it in the evaluation.

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