HC Deb 27 November 1998 vol 321 cc25-6W
Caroline Flint

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the 12 areas to pilot the Single Work Focused Gateway. [61788]

Mr. Andrew Smith

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security and I have decided on twelve areas to pilot the Single Work Focused Gateway.

From June 1999, Essex South East, Warwickshire, Clyde Coast & Renfrew and Lea Roding (East London) will be the first pilot areas. From November 1999 Somerset, Buckinghamshire, Gwent Borders and Calderdale & Kirklees will test the benefits call centre technology can bring to the Gateway process. At the same time, private or voluntary sector providers will be invited to lead pilots in Suffolk, North Nottinghamshire, Leeds and North Cheshire to test out whether they can bring extra value through innovative approaches to the Gateway.

These twelve pilot areas will play a vital part in the development of a new welfare state based on rights and responsibilities—work for those who can and support for those who cannot. They will also be at the forefront of providing the excellent service to clients that we are determined to provide.

The Single Gateway marks a step change in our welfare system. Currently, our system puts clients in boxes, depending on whether they are unemployed, lone parents, carers or face illness or disability. Under the Gateway, after an initial 'registration and orientation' phase, all clients will be allocated a personal adviser. The adviser will be responsible for working with individual clients to establish their individual needs and provide them with the help they need to become independent and move towards work. Of course, for some clients—such as the recently bereaved—it may not be appropriate to have an initial focus on work. In these cases, the personal adviser will keep the case under review and contact the client at a more appropriate stage to discuss their needs. The Gateway will be the cornerstone of our philosophy for welfare reform—work for those who can, support for those who cannot.

Local authorities will be invited to work with the Employment Service and Benefits Agency to provide a seamless and responsive service to all benefit clients.

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