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Incapacity Benefit

Volume 516: debated on Monday 18 October 2010

4. What support his Department plans to make available to people on incapacity benefit to enable them to take up employment. (17484)

We will make the Work programme available to incapacity benefit claimants who are moved back into the jobseeker stream. They will be eligible for support through the Work programme. We will pay an enhanced price to those providers who work with people coming off incapacity benefit to make sure that they get the tailored support they need.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply. Will he make sure that Jobcentre Plus, work clubs, and disability organisations can ensure that no matter where people are—whether they are on incapacity benefit or in Remploy factories that are making losses—they know where they can access support and get the skills training that they need to get back into the world of work?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. One of the central goals of our work over the next 12 to 18 months is to start a process of ensuring that far more people with long-term health problems and disabilities have the opportunity to get into the workplace. We will take whatever steps are necessary, primarily through Jobcentre Plus, to ensure that those people are handled effectively, and are steered to the right support through the Work programme. The aim is to achieve a goal that we all want, which is to allow as many of them as possible to find jobs.

The Minister is aware that a map of where incapacity benefit is most taken up would look like a map of Britain’s industrial heritage. In former shipbuilding constituencies such as mine, people do genuinely have long-term incapacity, which is associated with the work that they did. He will agree, of course, that that does not mean that they cannot work ever again. Is he absolutely fixed on what the question actually asks? It asks what support the Government can give to help people on incapacity benefit to move to work. I would like to hear him outline that support, rather than talking about the stick of benefit cuts.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. I am sure that he would agree that one of the great failings of the past 13 years has been the fact that we have consistently had 2.5 million people on incapacity benefit, and the previous Government did absolutely nothing to help them to get back into work, which is a terrible tragedy and a huge waste. We intend to change that. The Work programme will deliver tailored, specialised support for those people—support that is relevant to them, and designed not in Whitehall but by the people working with them on the front line. We intend to make a difference to those people in a way that the previous Government did not.

May I report that the pilot scheme in Burnley has now started? We have managed to get the local jobcentre involved with a local recruitment company, Vedas Recruitment and Training. The scheme seems to have started well; my only concern is that funding may run out before we complete it. Will the Minister guarantee that funding will carry on for a short period afterwards, if necessary?

I thank my hon. Friend and all those in Burnley, including those in the local authority and other local agencies, who have come together to help make the first stage of the migration from incapacity benefit a reality. I assure him that it is my belief that the money that we have supplied to Burley should be sufficient to see us through to the point when the Work programme starts next year. If there are issues, I will be very happy to talk again, and we will see what can be done about them.