§ 25. Angela Smith
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if she will make a statement on the Government's new deal for the long-term sick and disabled. 
§ Mr. Denham
The Government believe that work is the best form of welfare for people of working age, and are committed to improving opportunities and incentives for disabled people who want to work. Under the New Deal for people with a disability or long-term illness we have set aside £195 million to finance a range of measures to help those who want to move into or stay in work.
The first strand of the New Deal will involve funding a number of innovative schemes to test ways of helping people who want to work. The bidding process was launched on 9 December and will consist of two tranches.117W
We have sent over 2,500 bidding packs to interested organisations, and hope to award the first contracts in the Spring.
In developing proposals under the New Deal we are working in partnership with the Department for Education and Employment; with disabled people and the organisations that represent them; and with other interested parties. As a further example of this new approach, over 500 disability and other groups were invited earlier this month to a series of briefings to help bidders under the Innovative Schemes strand with their understanding of the guidance for preparing bids.