HL Deb 09 May 2002 vol 634 cc198-9WA
Baroness Anelay of St Johns

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the statement by Lord Davies of Oldham on 29 April (HL Deb, col. 547), what measures they propose to take to ensure that (a) applications for access to work (ATW) benefit are processed swiftly enough so that those in the performing arts who are on short-term or part-time contracts can make a successful claim; (b) ATW benefit will cover personal assistance needs of those employed in the performing arts who are travelling to work in non-office environments; and (c) ATW will be available to disabled people who are on work experience or placements in training in the performing arts. [HL4095]

Baroness Blackstone

Access to work benefit is managed by Jobcentre Plus, which has sought to improve the delivery of access to work over the past 12 months by introducing improvements to 'the applications process. These include creation of access to work business centres in the English regions, Scotland and Wales: specialist access to work advisers; and improved access channels to contact the business centres telephone, e-mail and textphones.

One outcome of these changes is that, where possible, support is approved by telephone. If support is needed at particularly short notice, for example travel costs to get to work, access to work advisers can now agree temporary costs immediately by telephone while a fuller appraisal of need is undertaken.

Access to work support is not restricted to specific occupations or work environments. Support workers, including personal assistants, and travel needs are growing areas with access to work. During 2000–01 over half the money spent and a third of new applications to access to work were for travel and human support.

Extending access to work in the way suggested could have an unintentionally adverse effect by limiting the resources Jobcentre Plus has available to help disabled people already in, or about to start, paid jobs and encourage employers to recruit disabled people. Separate funds already exist to provide additional support to disabled people undertaking work experience, placements or training through a Jobcentre Plus programme, such as the New Deal for Disabled People.