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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I am slightly baffled. I wonder whether there has been a typographical mistake. The amendment refers to omitting line 34, which does not refer to regulations. I wondered whether the noble Earl meant it to refer to line 38 which states:


or whether there is an issue here that has escaped me. It seems to me that the noble Earl's points and the Minister's reply just passed each other by.

Earl Russell: The best I can do is to beg leave to withdraw my amendment in as good order as possible.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 31 not moved.]

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 32:


Page 3, line 36, at end insert:
("( ) making prescribed additions to offset the extra costs that are incurred as a direct result of a claimant's disability")

The noble Lord said: It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak also to Amendment No. 37. I consider that the amount of the JSA, whether contribution-based or income-based, should be increased to take account of the extra costs a disabled person might face in seeking a job compared with the costs faced by a non-disabled person.

Those extra costs can arise in connection with travel to and from interviews and the jobcentre. Even though a disabled person may be in receipt of the higher rate mobility component of the DLA (previously termed the mobility allowance) that may be earmarked for the purchase of a powered indoor/outdoor wheelchair which, as the Committee will know, is not provided by the NHS. Moreover, even if the disabled person has a car, perhaps paid for by the HRM/DLA, or mobility allowance through the Motability scheme, he may be forced to resort to expensive taxis because parking places do not exist near the prospective employer's premises or at the jobcentre. If such facilities do exist, arrangements cannot be made for parking for casual job applicants, or they are being used by able-bodied people.

Blind people may need to be accompanied to interviews and jobcentres. They may also need the services of a reader in searching for advertised jobs. Deaf people may need to invest in equipment to communicate with prospective employers. They may incur extra expense through using the teletype system and they may need to be accompanied to interviews by a signer.

Those are but a few examples of the possible extra costs that disabled people may incur in looking for employment. Extra costs are not suffered by non-disabled jobseekers. As regards employment, the access-to-work scheme could offset all those extra costs but the scheme is not available to help disabled people seeking work.

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In Standing Committee on 7th February in the other place, Mr. Roger Evans, when responding to Keith Bradley, stated at col. 253:


    "If he is trying to argue that there are specific travel, interview or search costs, I shall go away and think on the matter".

Later at the Report stage, the Minister of State, Miss Widdecombe, responding to Mr. Bradley, stated:


    "I reassure him that the Employment Service can fund the costs of travel to interview, the cost of escorts to and from interview, which are important for people with disabilities, the cost of providing communications for the deaf at interview and other similar measures".—[Official Report, Commons, 22/3/95; col. 374.]

I have not given my noble friend notice of the following questions. If he cannot answer them tonight, perhaps he will write to me. Who is right? Exactly what help is available? Does it cover such equipment as is covered in the access-to-work scheme? Under what conditions is help offered? Are they the same as those for access-to-work? Is all the appropriate help that is available under access-to-work also available for disabled people who are seeking work on exactly the same terms? How does a disabled person go about securing help when seeking work? Is the help available immediately it is requested or, as with access-to-work, does it take several weeks for the application to be investigated and agreed? I beg to move.

Lord Carter: We on these Benches are pleased to support the amendment. During many years and in respect of many Bills we have discussed the extra costs that are faced by disabled people. Obviously that applies to seeking work. The noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, referred to access-to-work and I believe that when we deal with the disability Bill we shall have many interesting discussions on the relationship between access-to-work and the measures proposed in that Bill.

Without recognition of the extra cost faced by disabled people in their search for work, specifically in meeting the conditions of entitlement to benefit, they could be unfairly penalised through no fault of their own. I understand that in discussion in another place those issues were recognised. I hope that the Government will give the assurances for which the noble Lord has asked.

Earl Russell: We too support the amendment. I shall not repeat the argument because the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, put it so well. I am happy to say that he spoke for both of us.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The amendments seek to make additional payments in both contribution-based and income-based jobseeker's allowance to people who incur costs as a direct result of their disabilities. In the case of contribution-based JSA, the result would be to cut across the long-standing principle on which contributory benefits for the unemployed are based.

Those who have worked and paid contributions will be able to receive contribution-based JSA for six months irrespective of their means. The principle of contributory benefit is that it is, basically, a flat-rate income-replacement benefit, paid irrespective of other personal circumstances. Additional help for those with

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disabilities is available elsewhere in the benefit system, including income-based jobseeker's allowance and disability living allowance which can be paid on top of contributory benefit.

Income-based JSA will closely follow income support rules, and I can assure my noble friend that it will include provision for appropriate premia to be paid to disabled people in addition to the personal allowance. The disability premium in income support recognises increased living costs of the disabled and long-term sick for items such as extra heating, special diets, more expensive travel, and laundry costs.

We do not accept, therefore, that there is a case for a further additional payment to unemployed people who are looking for work. We believe the financial resources available are better used in measures which will actually help disabled people into jobs. I shall go through some of the help available. As I mentioned earlier today, the Employment Service will be spending an extra £71 million over the first three years following the introduction of incapacity benefit to direct just that kind of special help at disabled people.

I should say to my noble friend that there is no evidence that unemployed disabled people attending any of the Employment Service programmes aimed at helping with jobsearch face additional expenditure costs to enable them to attend or participate fully. Fares are paid to enable people to attend such courses. While there is an upper limit which is sufficient for most people, no limit is imposed on disabled people. The full cost is met for disabled people, including parking fees and taxi fares. People attending Employment Service courses such as restart courses, job review workshop and other ES provisions will be able to receive wide-ranging assistance which includes a personal reader service for visually impaired people and signers for people with hearing problems. For those with physical disabilities, help is given by furnishing access to the premises of programme providers by providing, for example, ramps or other equipment. In 1995-1996, £100,000 has been set aside for that.

The access-to-work scheme can provide a similar range of help for people attending interviews or starting work. Therefore, it is available to all people who may need to claim. It can provide up to £21,000 to individuals over a period of five years, although most will need much less than that. In addition targeted advice is provided for options available to claimants through the disability employment adviser.

I hope that my explanation of the assistance available answers my noble friend's questions. I appreciate that he asked me quite a number of questions. I shall read what he said and make sure that I have answered them all. If I have not answered any of his questions, I shall write to him. I hope that he will understand the point which I make; namely, that help is available through the special premia which exist for all disabled people. It is available also, through the Employment Service, for those seeking jobs who have the problems that I mentioned in the examples which I gave.

Lord Swinfen: My noble friend started by giving me the impression that he was going to disappoint me, but

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he ended up by rather encouraging me, which is always a good sign. I like to be encouraged. I look forward to hearing the answers to my questions from my noble friend. I shall read what he has said with the greatest interest. However, I reserve the right to return to this matter at a later stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde moved Amendment No. 33:


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