§ Mike Gapes
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to review the rules on permitted earnings. 
§ Maria Eagle
From 8 April 2002 we are introducing new permitted work rules for people who want to try some paid work while they are getting incapacity benefit, severe disablement allowance or income support because of illness or disability. The new arrangements will allow any person claiming benefit, based on incapacity, to try some paid work without the need for prior approval from a doctor.
Any person will be able to work:(a) for less than 16 hours a week, on average, with earnings up to £66.00 a week for a 26 week period. The period can be extended for another 26 weeks if a person is working with a job broker, personal adviser or disability employment adviser who agrees that it will help towards work of more than 16 hours a week. There will be no limit to the number of times someone can do permitted work in this category during the currency of a claim, but there must be a gap of at least 52 weeks between periods; or(b) for earnings of up to £20.00 a week at any time.
Someone who is already doing therapeutic work when the rules change can carry on doing it until April 2003. After that they can apply to do permitted work.689W
There are special arrangements for those disabled people who work in the community with ongoing support or supervision from a professional caseworker (employed or engaged by a public body or voluntary organisation). They will not be subject to time limits. This is intended to help those people whose disability means that their work capacity is limited to less than 16 hours a week, but is more than the few hours covered by the £20 per week option. These are people with conditions that cannot be cured but may be amenable to control or management by medication or therapy. This category will also include people who work in a sheltered workshop or as part of a hospital treatment programme.
We have been consulting disability organisations on these proposals and will be laying regulations before the House early in the new year.
§ Mike Gapes
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what account is taken of the impact of(a) income support, (b) housing benefit and (c) council tax benefit thresholds when changes are made to the level of permitted earnings for those with mental health problems. 
§ Malcolm Wicks
The permitted work rules allow people to try some paid work while they are getting a benefit based on incapacity. The new arrangements from 8 April 2002 will allow any person claiming benefit, based on incapacity, to try some paid work without the need for prior approval from a doctor.
Income-related benefits are intended to help people whose resources are insufficient to meet their day-to-day living expenses. Any income which is available to meet those expenses is normally taken fully into account when working out how much benefit can be paid. Earnings in excess of the appropriate disregard are taken into account against benefit.
The earnings disregard for people with disabilities was increased from £15 to £20 in April 2001. This disregard recognises the additional difficulties and expenses that these people are likely to face in taking up employment.