HC Deb 14 December 1995 vol 268 c736W
Mr. Neil Hamilton

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many people have been assisted under the access to work programme; and if she will make a statement. [6932]

Mrs. Gillian Shephard

In 1994–95, the first year of operation, over 10,300 people were assisted under the access to work programme. In 1995–96, it is estimated that some 10,000 people have already received support.

On present trends, planned provision for the programme in 1995–96—£13.4 million—will be exceeded to a significant extent. While I have been able to allocate additional funds to meet the demands made so far on the programme this year, it is necessary to implement the priority within the programme for unemployed people in order to keep expenditure within the resources available.

I am therefore announcing that, with effect from 18 December, funding will be targeted on meeting existing commitments; to applications to renew arrangements which fully satisfy the programme's present rules and criteria and which would otherwise lapse; and to people with disabilities who have been unemployed for at least four weeks. The Government believe that this is the most equitable way of allocating the limited resources available.

The Government recognise the importance of the programme to people with disabilities and to employers. The planned provision for the programme next year has therefore been maintained. Before reaching decisions on 1996–97, the Govnerment will publish the research they have commissioned on the first year, and enter into discussions with the organisations principally concerned on the operation of the programme next year.