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Incapacity Benefit (Nottingham)

Volume 447: debated on Monday 12 June 2006

4. What discussions he has had with One Nottingham regarding the establishment of a city strategy on incapacity benefit; and if he will make a statement. (76096)

Earlier this year, at the invitation of my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen), I attended a conference held by One Nottingham where local plans for helping people on incapacity benefits return to work were discussed. We intend to announce next month the first wave of cities to take forward the new approaches outlined in the Green Paper.

I thank the Secretary of State and the Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform for their personal interest in pursuing that application. We promise them that that will be forthcoming in the very near future. There are over 30,000 people in Nottingham on incapacity benefit and related benefits, and the strategy presents a great opportunity to impact upon that. Does my right hon. Friend agree, though, that the strategy must lie alongside other strategies on deprivation and regeneration, such as teaching youngsters social behaviour at school and tackling the 50 most difficult families, which One Nottingham is doing? Further to the question from the hon. Member for Reading, East (Mr. Wilson) about cognitive behavioural therapy and helping people get back on the bridge into to work, it may produce tight bottlenecks in the national health service as we try to tap into the supply of those therapists. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that there are sufficient cognitive behavioural therapists available to make his strategy a success?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the leadership that he is showing in his own city, taking forward those proposals. I have no doubt at all that Nottingham will provide a high quality bid when the process for applications has come to an end. There is a strong local partnership in Nottingham, and one of the things that struck me when I was there was the appreciation of the extent to which any successful strategy must be based on a broad approach. I agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of cognitive behavioural therapy. In the neighbouring pathways to work scheme to his in Derbyshire, the same problem of access to CBTs was encountered and the solution was to contract that service from the private sector. Where that can deal with the bottlenecks that my hon. Friend mentioned, it is the sensible way to proceed.