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Employment Services

Volume 485: debated on Wednesday 10 December 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps his Department is taking to assist (a) lone parents and (b) people with disabilities to (i) prepare for and (ii) obtain work. (240277)

Lone parents have access to a comprehensive package of measures via new deal for lone parents or new deal plus for lone parents pilots to encourage them to improve their employment opportunities and gain independence through working.

We have also introduced additional pre and post employment support to help more lone parents move into and remain in work. This includes: increasing work trials from three to up to six weeks; options and choices events and rolling out nationally in work credit, an in work discretion fund and in work advisory support.

From October 2008 incapacity benefits were replaced for new customers by employment and support allowance with a revised medical assessment which focuses on what people can do, as well as what they cannot. To underpin the new more work-focused system we have made Pathways to Work support available to everyone receiving incapacity benefits, and in the future employment and support allowance.

Specialist disability employment services also enable many thousands of disabled people to lead fulfilling working lives, people who may otherwise be excluded from the workplace. We have carried out a major review of the specialist disability employment services. The public consultation ran between 3 December 2007 and 10 March 2008 and sets out how we think we can improve these services to help more disabled people.

The consultation also set out proposals for a new programme to replace Workstep, Work Preparation and the Job Introduction Scheme, and proposals for an enhanced role for Disability Employment Advisers. The Welfare Reform Green Paper “No one written off: reforming welfare to reward responsibility”, Cm 7363, said that we would implement these improvements to services. The Green Paper also said that we would double, by 2013/14, the budget for Access to Work. As a consequence of these changes, we will be able to help greater numbers of disabled people prepare for, take up and retain paid work.