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Volume 487: debated on Thursday 29 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress his Department has made in implementing the provisions of the National Carers Strategy, published in June 2008, which relates to (a) the provision of support for carers by Jobcentre Plus, (b) flexible provision of skills training for carers and (c) a review of the benefits for which carers may be eligible. (250813)

The National Carers Strategy committed Jobcentre Plus to improvements to the support it offers to carers by improving information about flexible job vacancies; introducing Care Partnership Managers in every district; introducing specialist training for Jobcentre Plus advisers who work with carers; funding replacement care for those who are participating in approved training; ensuring carers have access to appropriate employment programmes and investigating the feasibility of providing return to work support through third sector organisations. It is expected that recruitment for the Care Partnership Managers will begin in April 2009 and that the remaining support will be available by the end of the year.

The National Carers Strategy committed the Department to providing skills training in a flexible manner so it is accessible for carers. A training pilot in the west midlands is currently looking at the best way to deliver flexible training to Jobcentre Plus customers and we are currently developing plans for a Great Britain wide roll-out.

In the National Carers Strategy, the Department also committed to examining carers’ benefits in the context of our wider ambitions for the welfare state, and the future of the care and support system.

In December, we published the White Paper, “Raising Expectations and Increasing Support: Reforming Welfare for the Future” (Cm 7506), in which we outlined our views for the future of the benefit system, and gave a commitment that the needs of carers would be a central consideration in these changes.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent progress has been made on commissioning Jobcentre Plus training programmes for carers; and if he will make a statement. (248131)

Carers currently have access to Jobcentre Plus approved training through a range of New Deal programmes. As part of the National Carers’ Strategy, Jobcentre Plus is examining the most effective ways of supporting carers into training. Some carers may need more specialist support because of their caring responsibilities or the length of time they have spent caring. It is envisaged that Jobcentre Plus staff will identify gaps in the provision and work with experienced third sector providers to meet this demand.