HC Deb 17 December 2002 vol 396 cc777-8W
Dr. Gibson

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what discussions he has had with other Ministers to develop a rehabilitation strategy to tackle work-related ill health in order to reduce the number on invalidity benefit. [85705]

Mr. Nicholas Brown

Improved vocational rehabilitation services are a key element of our strategy for enabling people with health problems and disabilities to move into employment, and so become and remain independent.

Ministers and officials from this Department, the Department of Health, the Department for Education and Skills, the Scotland Office and the Wales Office have held discussions concerning the impact of ill health and disability on both individuals and employers, and specifically the role of vocational rehabilitation.

Our Green Paper "Pathways to Work—Helping people into employment", published on 18 November, proposes more intensive support for people who move onto incapacity benefits. One element of this involves the establishment by Jobcentre Plus in conjunction with the NHS of new rehabilitation programmes, combining support to find work with management of an individual's health condition. These will be piloted in six areas across the country starting from late 2003.

In addition, the Job Retention and Rehabilitation Pilot, a joint initiative with the Department of Health which also starts next year, will explore ways in which we can support people faced with losing their employment through prolonged sickness or disability.