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Welfare Reform Bill

Volume 454: debated on Tuesday 5 December 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how his Department plans to ensure that the Welfare Reform Bill extends support for those carers who have suffered from ill health but wish to return to work. (102042)

Carers already have access to a wide range of support to help them back to work depending on whether they are, for example a lone parent or a disabled person, and the type of working age benefit they receive, such as income support or incapacity benefit.

In taking advantage of this support, carers may be able to attend a work-focused interview where they can get advice from a personal adviser on the programmes available to help them search for work or on training to update their skills. When making the transition into work, the personal adviser will also give advice on the financial assistance available to them.

We have also listened to the considerable public support for carers in drawing up proposals in the Health and Social Care White Paper when a commitment was made to improve respite care. In addition, the Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004, which came into effect on 1 April 2005, promotes co-operation between authorities and requires councils to inform carers of their right to an assessment which takes into account their outside interests including work, or the desire to work.

Flexible working practices are good for business, employees and their families. In April 2003, we introduced a new right for parents of children up to the age of six and disabled children up to the age of 18 to request flexible working and put a duty on the employer to consider their request seriously. From April 2007, this right will be extended through the Work and Families Act to carers of adults. This will support carers who wish to remain in or return to work and will particularly help those aged 45 to 64, around one quarter of whom are carers.