HC Deb 07 September 2004 vol 424 cc1115-6W
Chris Ruane

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he will set out the timescale for compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 for(a) voluntary and community groups and (b) small businesses; and if he will make a statement; [187572]

(2) what financial assistance is available to help (a) voluntary and community groups and (b) small businesses to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995; and if he will make a statement. [187573]

Maria Eagle

Many voluntary and community groups and small businesses, where they are employers or provide services to the public, are already under a duty to meet certain requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995. For example, they are already required not to discriminate unjustifiably against, and to make reasonable adjustments for, disabled people in recruitment, employment or in the way that they deliver services to disabled people.

On 1 October 2004, the employment provisions of the DDA are being extended to employers with fewer than 15 employees. At the same time, service providers will be under additional duties to tackle physical features of their premises which otherwise make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for a disabled person to access the service, or to provide the service by another reasonable means.

The Government, and the Disability Rights Commission, have undertaken wide-ranging publicity campaigns over the last two years to raise awareness of the new duties in order to give employers and service providers the opportunity to understand, and plan for, their implementation.

There is no specific funding available to help (a) voluntary and community groups and (b) small businesses, or indeed any business or organisation with duties under the DDA, to meet the requirements of the Act. This is because employers and service providers are only required to do what is reasonable, and factors such as the cost and practicability of making reasonable adjustments, and the financial and other resources available to the business or organisation, will be taken into account in determining what is reasonable.

In certain instances, an employer who employs a disabled person may be able to obtain assistance to make adjustments for the disabled employee from the Access to Work programme. Employers can obtain further information about the programme by contacting their nearest Access to Work Business Centre.