Skip to main content

Written Answers

Volume 704: debated on Friday 10 October 2008

Written Answers

Friday 10 October 2008

Access to Work Scheme

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to publicise the access to work scheme. [HL5381]

The Access to Work national delivery team is currently implementing an internal marketing strategy to ensure that all Jobcentre staff involved with disabled customers are fully aware of the Access to Work programme. This will cover the aims of the programme, eligibility criteria and the application process. An online aide-memoire is being produced which employer-facing staff can use to raise the profile of Access to Work.

The programme is also being promoted through presentations and exhibitions, and through close working partnerships developed with the major disability groups such as the Royal National Institute for Blind people, Royal National Institute for Deaf people and Mind. Partnerships with the Employers' Forum on Disability and with large employers such as the Royal Mail Group have been developed.

Jobcentre Plus continues to place articles about Access to Work in a variety of publications. For example, articles have appeared in external publications such as Disability Wales and the National Spinal Association magazine illustrating how Access to Work can practically support disabled people into paid employment. The magazine Inspire, produced by Jobcentre Plus and targeted at jobseekers, regularly carries information about Access to Work and is available, along with other leaflets on Access to Work, in all Jobcentre Plus offices. Additionally, articles about Access to Work have appeared in Engage, the Jobcentre Plus internally produced magazine for employers.

Information about Access to Work is available on the Jobcentre Plus and Directgov websites. Directgov, as a source of information about Jobcentre Plus services for disabled people, is widely publicised. Disability employment advisers, who are often the gateway to Access to Work, are regularly in contact with small to medium-sized employers locally and will raise awareness of Access to Work when appropriate.

In response to the welfare reform Green Paper of 21 July 2008, No One Written OffReforming Welfare to Reward Responsibility, which included a proposal to increase Access to Work funding, ways to further improve marketing of the scheme are being considered.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Access to Work scheme can support those with mental health conditions. [HL5382]

Access to Work can help people with mental health conditions by providing a range of short-term or more regular support. This includes job coaches, personal mentors, advocates to provide help with negotiating and problem-solving skills, counsellors and support workers—for example, a travel buddy who would accompany the customer when travelling to and from work where the customer cannot manage travelling alone.

There are also other forms of Access to Work support that can assist those with mental health conditions. For example, if use of public transport triggered panic attacks and a travel buddy was not a suitable option, Access to Work could pay the additional costs arising from the use of taxis. If necessary, Access to Work could also provide indirect support by paying for awareness training to help a customer's colleagues to gain a better understanding of the customer's mental health condition.

The welfare reform Green Paper, No One Written Off—Reforming Welfare to Reward Responsibility, includes a proposal to increase Access to Work funding. Access to Work is looking at ways to use some of the funding to make the programme more responsive to the needs of those with mental health conditions. This includes exploring ways to assist the Department of Health increase the number of people with mental ill health working within the NHS and looking at how Access to Work may fit with their increasing access to psychological therapies programme. Access to Work has already begun to work more closely with national mental health organisations to explore ways of working together to deliver a more flexible approach in supporting both people with mental health conditions and their employers in the workplace.

Autism

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What training staff in Jobcentre Plus offices have in dealing with people with autism. [HL5380]

Jobcentre Plus provides its personal employment advisers with general awareness training on autistic spectrum disorders to enable them to have a broad understanding of the condition. This knowledge helps the adviser to provide better help and support to the customer through recognition of how their disorder might affect their job search activities. Jobcentre Plus policy is to develop its people in the skills required to manage a range of behaviours demonstrated by customers, regardless of their health condition. This approach ensures that they are equipped to deal with a diverse set of circumstances while treating customers as individuals.

Benefits: Attendance Allowance

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will provide a mobility component to the attendance allowance for those aged 65 and over who did not apply for, or were not qualified to receive, disability living allowance before the age of 65. [HL5405]

We have no plans to provide a mobility component along these lines. It is normal for pensions and benefits schemes to contain different provisions for people at different stages of their lives. Disability living allowance is intended to focus additional help with the extra costs of disability on people who have the very considerable disadvantage of being severely disabled early, or relatively early, in life and who, in consequence, face limited opportunities to work, earn and save compared with non-disabled people.

Attendance allowance provides help with the disability-related extra costs of people who experience the onset of disability after age 65. Based on the need for personal care, this help is part of the wide range of support that the Government make available to older people so that they can have a decent and secure income in retirement.

Disabled People: Income Support

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What advice and guidance from official sources is immediately accessible all year and every year for disabled people and their advisers to enable them, their staff and members of the public to decide eligibility for income support. [HL5328]

Advice and guidance to help disabled people to decide their eligibility for income support is available via the Department for Work and Pensions and Directgov websites on the internet. Information is provided at varying levels of detail to meet the needs of customers and advisers. The department also publishes an extensive range of information leaflets, available from its offices and via the internet, which include leaflet DWP1003, Income Support. In addition, the benefits inquiry line offers free advice on benefit eligibility to people who are sick or disabled, a carer or one of their representatives.

Heritage: Historic Ships

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What representations they have received regarding the future of HMS “Stalker”; and what support they are giving, or plan to give, to its preservation, in the light of it being the last surviving British steam-driven landing ship tank.[HL5274]

The director and secretary to the Advisory Committee on National Historic Ships has written to the Minister for Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism about the potential demolition of HMS “Stalker”. The Minister has also received a representation from a member of the public on this issue.

The Government established the Advisory Committee on National Historic Ships in 2006 to advise the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on preservation and funding priorities for historic vessels. The committee is in discussion with the Maritime Steam Restoration Trust, which is interested in purchasing HMS “Stalker”, and with the Environment Agency, which is one of a number of regulators that performs a regulatory function over some aspects of ship dismantling in England and Wales.

The Government do not provide direct financial support for the acquisition, movement or conservation of historic ships, other than through the provision of grant in aid to those museums that hold vessels of historic significance in their collections that are funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Pensions

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What targets the Pension Service seeks to meet in dealing with new claims for the state pension; and what is its success rate. [HL5370]

For 2008-09, the target is to clear 95 per cent of new claims for state pension within 60 days. Year to date performance for August 2008 was 93.3 per cent. Performance for 2007-08 was 93.1 per cent.

Pension, Disability and Carers Service processes applications in advance of the date on which the first payment is due: customers are invited to make a claim four months before their retirement.

The state pension accuracy target for 2008-09 is to achieve a financial accuracy rate of 98 per cent on state pension new claims and change of circumstances.

Our year to date performance for August 2008 was 96.5 per cent. Performance in 2007-08 was 97.4 per cent. Improvement in accuracy is the current key priority for the service.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How soon after the Pensions Bill receives Royal Assent they intend to make regulations under Clause 136 of the Bill as amended in Committee of the Whole House (HL Bill 79) about energy consumers who are in receipt of state pension credit; and whether they will publish draft regulations in advance of the Bill receiving Royal Assent. [HL5391]

Clause 136 of the Pensions Bill enables the Secretary of State to set out in regulations details of how state pension credit data are to be shared with energy suppliers. We are working closely with energy suppliers, the Department for Energy and Climate Change, Defra and Ofgem to agree how the data-sharing process will work. We will lay the draft regulations as soon as possible after Royal Assent; they will be affirmative and therefore subject to full parliamentary scrutiny.

Prisoners: Remand

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What percentage of prisoners currently held in prisons in England are on remand. [HL5396]

At the end of August 2008 there were 13,787 prisoners held on remand (including those prisoners either untried and convicted unsentenced) in all prison establishments in England and Wales, representing 17 per cent of the total prison population of 83,406. In England by itself, at the end of August 2008 there were 13,364 prisoners held on remand out of a total of 80,592 prisoners in all prison establishments, representing 17 per cent of the total.

The published information for the combined totals for England and Wales is available in the public domain at the following website (which is updated monthly): www.justice.gov.uk/publications/populationincustody.htm.

These figures have been drawn from administrative IT systems, which, as with any large-scale recording system, are subject to possible errors with data entry and processing.

Schools: Shropshire

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why they gave Shropshire County Council an extension of one month to put in its capital resources bid for primary schools. [HL5399]

No formal extension was granted. We invited every local authority to prepare a strategic plan for capital investment across its primary school estate in consultation with local stakeholders. We asked for all the plans to be submitted to the department by 16 June 2008. Shropshire County Council officers advised my officials that, because of the need for further local consultation, Shropshire would not be able to meet this deadline. The plan was received on 19 August. The department will notify local authorities of the outcome of assessment shortly.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the quality of local consultation regarding Shropshire County Council's capital resources bid for primary schools; and whether the process of policy development which underpinned the capital bid was properly carried out. [HL5400]

As a condition of funding for the primary capital programme, we asked every local authority to develop and agree with my department a strategic plan setting out how the programme will support national policies and local priorities. Local authorities' strategies are currently being assessed against the detailed guidance issued on 6 December 2007. Among other things, this guidance emphasised the need for local consultation. The department will notify local authorities of the outcome of assessment shortly.

Turkey: EU Membership

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will ask the European Union Commissioner for Enlargement to comment, in his forthcoming report on Turkey's progress towards compliance with the Copenhagen criteria for membership of the European Union, on the blocking by a Turkish court of the website of Richard Dawkins, professor for the public understanding of science at the University of Oxford. [HL5359]

We expect the European Commission to provide its annual report in November 2008 on Turkey's progress towards EU accession. As part of this report, we would expect the Commission to rigorously assess political and judicial developments and reforms in Turkey and to identify any areas, including freedom of expression, where further efforts are needed to ensure full compliance with the Copenhagen criteria and EU legislation.