HC Deb 01 December 2003 vol 415 c14W
Mr. Nicholas Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress he has made in setting up the incapacity benefit pilot programmes. [140646]

Maria Eagle

The incapacity benefit pilots will give new claimants: early support from skilled personal advisers in a series of monthly work focus interviews; direct access to a 'Choices Package' offering a comprehensive range of existing and new specialist programmes, including joint programmes with the NHS for improving a person's ability to return to work, as well as clear financial incentives to make work pay.

The pilots are currently running in three districts: Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, Argyll and Bute; Derbyshire; and Bridgend and Rhonnda Cynon Taff. Early indications from these pilots have been encouraging and the feedback from customers has been very positive.

The new programmes that will be run jointly by the Department and NHS Primary Care trusts (local health boards, in Wales) are on track to start in January 2004.

A further four Districts, East Lanes, Somerset, Essex and Gateshead and South Tyneside are on target to begin pilots on 5 April 2004.