HC Deb 08 July 2003 vol 408 cc759-60W
Mr. Drew

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what help is available under the benefits system for those who are recovering from mental health problems and who wish to enter work; and if he will make a statement; [119934]

(2) what evaluation is being undertaken of pilots on access to employment for people recovering from mental health problems; and if he will make a statement. [119935]

Maria Eagle

We are ensuring that the benefit system encourages and promotes work where possible, and provides greater security for those for whom work is not an option. We also have a wide range of programmes such as WORKSTEP that have proved successful in helping people with disabilities, including mental health problems, secure work where they are ready and able to do so.

The new permitted work rules, introduced from April 2002, provide a stepping stone to full-time work for people receiving incapacity benefit (IB). Anyone claiming IB can now work for up to and including £20 a week for an unlimited period, or work for less than 16 hours a week and earn up to and including £67.50 a week for 26 weeks. People with conditions that may be unlikely to improve over time, such as those with severe mental health problems, will continue to be able to work and earn up to £67.50 a week for as long as they are receiving IB. People on incapacity benefits can also do as much voluntary work as they like without affecting their benefit entitlement.

These arrangements have enabled people with many different disability-related barriers to work, including those with mental illness, to move successfully into jobs. However, there are a number of initiatives and pilots taking place looking at improving access to employment and job retention for people with a range of health conditions, including mental health.

The Incapacity Benefit Reform Pilots, due to start in October 2003, aim to provide a range of help to people with health conditions to move off benefits through achieving sustained employment. An independent evaluation of each pilot will be conducted using a range of methodologies. Each evaluation will assess the overall impact of each pilot, and will also provide a range of quantitative and qualitative data on the success of each pilot in helping those with mental health conditions to gain and retain employment.