§ Mr. Howard
Helping people with disabilities is an agreed priority for the Employment Service agency. In 1989–90 it placed 76,900 people with disabilities into jobs.
Following consideration of comments on the consulta-tive document, "Employment and Training for People with Disabilities", I have now agreed with the agency major improvements in the special help which it currently provides through disablement resettlement officers, the disablement advisory service and the employment rehabilitation service.
New local teams will be set up, over the next 12 to 18 months, to provide more accessible, professional and integrated special help to individuals and employers. The teams will offer to individuals specialist advice, assessment and help in finding and keeping jobs, and to employers encouragement and help in applying good practice. Staff training will be strengthened.
The Employment Service will now implement the plans for improved employment rehabilitation announced in the consultative document. These will involve more use of voluntary and other agents. Nine Employment Service centres—in West London, Bristol, Birmingham, Nottingham, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Cardiff and Glasgow—will be developed as centres of excellence. The Employment Service expects to be able to phase out the others over up to five years as adequate agency provision is put in place. Access to residential rehabilitation will be assured for those who require it.
Following those changes, local coverage of specialist assessment and rehabilitation will be substantially increased, the Employment Service's own service will be more coherent, professional and effectively managed, and have a higher profile; and sources of expertise and commitment in the wider community will be more effectively harnessed. They represent major improvements 159W in the quality of service to both individuals and employers and will help more people with disabilities to get and keep suitable jobs.
I will take decisions on possible developments in other forms of help provided by the Employment Service to people with disabilities after relevant comments on "Employment and Training for People with Disabilities" and the "Evaluation of the Special Schemes for People with Disabilities" have been fully considered.