§ Mr. Richards
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what plans he has to improve the way his Department gives assistance towards meeting the employment needs of people with disabilities.
§ Mr. David Hunt
I have asked the Employment Service to introduce a new major programme for people with disabilities from 1 April 1994. It will be called "access to work" and will assist people who need help to overcome barriers to work resulting from disabilities.
Access to work replaces and adds to the help currently available under the special aids to employment, adaptations to premises and equipment, fares and work, and personal reader service schemes, which will be wound up. More people with a wider range of needs will be helped. Assistance will no longer be limited to prescribed, specific forms. Within resources available, it will be provided flexibly to meet need.
Access to work will be open to unemployed, employed or self-employed clients registerable as disabled with 103W priority for unemployed people. New forms of help available will include communication support for deaf people, adaptations of vehicles to get to work, and support workers for people with severe physical disabilities, mental illness or with learning difficulties.
In addition, from 5 July 1993, unemployed deaf people will be able to get help towards the cost of communicators at job interviews. Trials of other forms of communicator support for deaf people entering employment will be taking place in four locations during 1993. Lessons learned will be taken into account in access to work.
Under access to work there will be an upper limit, at a level to be specified as soon as possible, to the amount of financial help any one individual can receive over a five year period, but entitlement to support will begin again after five years. Employers will be asked to make a 50 per cent. contribution towards assistance for employees who have worked for them for six months or more. These contributions will be capped over the five year period at a level to be specified. Employers will also be expected to pay for the cost of one-off items of equipment or help costing less than £100 for their employees who have worked for them for six months or more. Employers will not be asked for any contribution for new recruits or employees who have worked with them for less than six months.
The job introduction scheme, which encourages employers to take on people with disabilities for short trial periods, will continue separately. The business on own account scheme, which currently provides assistance with general business setting up costs to only a very small number of severely disabled people, will be discontinued. However, those wanting to enter self-employment will be eligible for help under access to work.
I believe that the introduction of access to work will be an important step in helping to release, in the workplace, the individual potential and initiative of people with disabilities and to meet their employment needs.