HC Deb 23 April 1996 vol 276 cc138-9W
Mr. Garnier

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what are his plans for the provision of advice and assistance under part III of the Disability Discrimination Act. [26675]

Mr. Burt

The Government are seeking to establish a new service which will provide independent advice and support on the Act's rights of access to services and property. The service is planned to be operational in time for the implementation of the first of these rights around the end of 1996. The principal aim of the service will be to promote the settlement of disputes without the need for court action. Widely available and high-quality advice and support services will also help prevent discrimination and disputes.

Disabled people and businesses already make use of existing advice points, such as citizens' advice bureaux and business links. The new service will be targeted at these organisations, giving them access to expert knowledge on this new legislation. By enhancing the knowledge of existing advice points, the service will aim to ensure that disabled people and businesses will have access to locally available, high-quality advice and support. The Government are also investigating the possibilities for providing conciliation services, either as part of the advice and support service, or as a separate entity.

Those interested in providing the advice and support service are asked to respond to advertisements which will appear tomorrow. Respondents will then be sent an outline specification and asked to provide information regarding their background, relevant experience, and financial stability by 28 May 1996. This information will be used to identify preferred candidates who will be formally invited to enter the negotiation phase of the project. The final specification will be produced during the negotiation phase. Copies of the outline specification have been placed in the Library.

Details of the negotiations will remain confidential. An announcement of the result will be made prior to the service being commenced.