HC Deb 07 July 1992 vol 211 cc174-6W
Mr. McMaster

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what criteria she uses to measure the performance of employment services for disabled people; what plans she has to improve these services; what consultations she intends to carry out with disability organisations before introducing any amendments to service provision; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

The Employment Department's main provision for helping to meet the employment needs of people with disabilities is delivered through the Employment Service (ES).

The ES's objectives in its services for people with disabilities are to provide them with particular assistance to take advantage of work and training opportunities; and to help and encourage employers to make such opportunities available. The annual performance agreement between the Employment Department and ES sets out a performance target for the ES for 1991–92 that 2.5 per cent. of the total number of people placed in work are to be people with disabilities. In addition, the ES monitors the effectiveness of schemes using both management information, such as the numbers of people benefiting, and special research and surveys.

Proposals for improving the Department's services for people with disabilities were contained in the consultative document "Employment and Training of People with Disabilities" published in June 1990 and further proposals were made when the "Evaluation of Special schemes for People with Disabilities" was published in November 1990. We received many responses to these documents from various individuals and organisations, including organisations of and for disabled people.

As a result of these consultation exercises, we have announced and implemented changes in some areas and we are considering other ways to improve our provision. For example, the ES is introducing placing assessment and counselling teams (PACTs) during 1992. PACTs will take on all the present functions of disablement resettlement officers, the disablement advisory service and the assessment functions of the employment rehabilitation service. These new teams will provide a more integrated service to both employers and disabled individuals.

Ministers consult regularly with the National Advisory Council on Employment of People with Disabilities on plans and performance nationally and on local matters with committees for the employment of people with disabilities. When reconstituting the Department's advisory bodies care has been taken to include in them individuals with knowledge of the needs of people with disabilities, some of whom are members of disability organisations.

In considering, planning and implementing improvements to employment services for people with disabilities the Department involves disability organisations as appropriate. For example, a number of interested organisations will be consulted on proposals arising from a recent review of funding for sheltered employment.

Sir John Hannam

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what steps are being taken by her Department to improve the accessibility of mainstream employment services to people with disabilities.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

Most people with disabilities who find work through our services do so using our mainstream services. These services are kept under review with the aim of ensuring accessibility for people with disabilities.

Since April 1991 people with disabilities have priority access to the main employment and training programmes—employment training, employment action, the job interview guarantee scheme, job clubs and the enterprise allowance scheme.

The Employment Service has issued guidance to mainstream personnel about their role in helping people with disabilities to find work. The new placing assessment and counselling teams and regional ability development centres will offer support and guidance to mainstream personnel, including help with training, in providing help for people with disabilities who do not require specialist help.

The Employment Service has issued to staff responsible for its premises guidance on improving access to jobcentres for people with disabilities which takes account of the latest standards in the building regulations.

Sir John Hannam

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment when the audit of non-specialist programmes against the needs of people with disabilities was completed; and if she will place a copy in the Library.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

The Department's consultative document "Employment and Training for People with Disabilities" referred to the Department's intention to audit new and established programmes and services to ensure that they meet the needs of clients with disabilities. Auditing is now under way but the process is continuous and so there will be no report on its completion.

Sir John Hannam

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what plans she has to evaluate the policy of using agencies for the assessment and rehabilitation of disabled people.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

The Employment Service regularly monitors the effectiveness and quality of provision within individual agencies with which it contracts to provide specialist employment assessment and rehabilitation. It is currently considering carrying out further research into the effectiveness of rehabilitation.