HC Deb 02 July 2001 vol 371 cc8-9W
Mr. Kidney

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to extend the provision to permit benefit claimants to undertake therapeutic work. [20]

Malcolm Wicks

As the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security, my hon. Friend the Member for City of York (Mr. Bayley), said on 22 March 2001,Official Report, column 346W, from April 2002 we propose to introduce new rules for people who receive Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance and Income Support based on incapacity who want to undertake some form of paid work which may ease their way back into full-time employment. We are aware of concerns that the current therapeutic work rules may be of limited use where it is difficult to demonstrate that a particular job would be beneficial to a person's medical condition. The current rules also do not help someone who wants to work on a limited basis in order to have social contact if they do not satisfy the therapeutic requirement. This is why we have reviewed the current position and are introducing some improvements.

Under the proposed changes, the therapeutic work rules will cease to exist. Instead we intend to introduce rules which will allow any person receiving incapacity benefits to:

  1. (a) work for less than 16 hours a week and up to £60.50 for up to six months; with a six month extension for those working with a Personal Adviser, Job Broker or Disability Employment Adviser;
  2. (b) work for maximum earnings of £20 a week with no time limit and no hours limit.

Claimants who undertake sheltered work or are undergoing a hospital treatment programme which includes work, will, as now, be able to earn up to £60.50 a week (April 2001 rates) with no limit on the number of hours they work.

We believe that these rules are much fairer than those that currently exist. Because we are opening up the rules to anyone on incapacity benefits we are giving more people the opportunity of trying paid work. This, together with our other measures to help people find suitable work, will enable people to move off benefits and into work. Also by allowing all claimants to do some paid work without time limit, we will be encouraging those who are otherwise excluded to take part in activities which will help them feel part of, and play a more active role in, their local community. Additionally, of course, there are the rules which we already have in place to allow claimants to try full-time work or training and return to benefit at the same rate if they have to give up that work or training.

These changes do not affect the position whereby people receiving Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance may do unpaid voluntary work for an unlimited period.