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Pathways to Work

Volume 449: debated on Tuesday 25 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what measures exist in Pathways to Work to assist individuals who may be continuously in and out of work due to (a) multiple sclerosis and (b) other long-term and fluctuating medical conditions. (85292)

I have been asked to reply.

Our Welfare Reform Bill set out our plans to assess people based on the effects a condition has on a person's capacity to work. This is not done on the basis of a single “snapshot” assessment but over a reasonable period of time given the nature of the condition. In this way we will take account of the effects of fluctuating and long-term conditions. Personal advisers have the freedom to waive or defer a work-focused interview where a claimant is unable to participate for good reason.

We aim to have a system that can be flexible to an individual's changing condition. We will be sensitive to each person's situation and take serious consideration of any medical advice given, such as that provided by a GP. Our services are delivered by personal advisers whose key motivating factor is the help they are able to offer. These advisers receive specialist training to give them the skills, knowledge, techniques and confidence to deal with customers whose circumstances include having a health condition or disability. If someone cannot reasonably participate in back-to-work activity because of their current health condition, they will not be required to do so. It is about people meeting with an adviser to discuss their circumstances and look for ways to improve the quality of their day-to-day living and perhaps begin to chart a route back to work.

In Pathways to Work areas, our Condition Management Programmes have been effective in helping individuals with health conditions to return to work. The programmes, jointly delivered by Jobcentre Plus and NHS Primary Care Trusts, offer help to the very large proportion of people coming on to incapacity benefit who want and expect to work again but genuinely believe that they are too ill to do anything about it. The programmes are designed to assist individuals understand and manage their health conditions better, particularly in a workplace environment, and reflect current best clinical practice in the management of these conditions.