The Department for Work and Pensions laid before the house on 18 November 2002 a consultation document entitled: "Pathways to Work—Helping People into Employment". This sets out the next steps in the Government's welfare to work strategy for people with health problems and disabilities. It recommends piloting a number of innovative measures to help people to return to work where they have the capability and expectation of doing so. I will be announcing the detailed outcome of the consultation exercise shortly.My Department, together with the Department of Health and appropriate Scottish Executive and Welsh Assembly officials, have been preparing for the implementation of the pilots.On 26 March I announced the locations of the first three Jobcentre Plus pilot districts which will start on 27 October—Bridgend, Derby and Renfrewshire.Today, I am pleased to announce that the further four pilots will be in the Jobcentre Plus districts of East Lancashire, Essex, Gateshead & South Tyneside, and Somerset, starting in April 2004.Objective criteria were used to select the seven pilot areas. The number of pilot areas was increased from the six mentioned in the consultation document to seven in order to reflect the full range of these criteria so we fully understand the potential national impact. The areas represent a mix of geographical and labour market areas and will have fully integrated Jobcentre Plus offices.The pilots will test and evaluate the impact of the extra support we will provide for those sick and disabled people who want to go back to work.
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
(Mr. Andrew Smith)