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Earl Russell: My Lords, the amendment divides into two parts. One is about making known information which already exists and facilities which are already available. The access to work scheme is not the easiest system to find out about. I began writing letters to Ministers about the scheme as far back as 1989 when the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, was a Minister. It is a good scheme. Not enough people know about it. That is why putting the information into the jobseeker's agreement would be a help.

However, the other point of the amendment relates to the extra costs in seeking work which arise from disability. In Committee on 20th April, the Minister stated:

To take an extreme example, if you travel in a wheelchair, the journey is an endless series of complications and results in potentially vast additional costs. If you are blind and going to a job interview in a strange town, you will have difficulty. Finding your way around by bus in a strange town for the first time it is

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hard enough for most of us, but if you are blind it could be positively alarming. If you are short of time, the need to obtain a more expensive form of transport may on occasion be acute. I need not continue with the examples; I am sure that every noble Lord can imagine them. I do not suggest that they go so far as a disabled French friend of mine. He once came to London with his car which had been adapted for the disabled and his disabled parking badge; he thought that that enabled him to park at Oxford Circus. The towing away fees are not the kind of expense that the amendment is meant to cover.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for providing us with an opportunity to discuss this topic. Perhaps I may start at the beginning when the jobseeker seeks his first interview with the Employment Service. It will be with an employment officer and together they will discuss the jobseeker's needs and seek to draw up a jobseeker's agreement. If they decide that the jobseeker would benefit from specialist advice from a specially trained disability employment adviser, that can be noted on the agreement and the employment officer will organise it. Not all jobseekers who would be entitled to do so want to use our specialist disability services. It might be interesting to reflect that many people with a disability want to seek work through the Employment Service mainstream services. During 1994-95, nearly 80 per cent.—that is more than 55,000—of jobseekers with disabilities placed in jobs by advisers were placed by mainstream advisers rather than by disability employment advisers. It is estimated that more than 25,000 other people with disabilities were placed in jobs by the Jobcentre self-service facilities. So it would be wrong to insist that a disabled person's agreement should necessarily contain information about the help and support that is available. The jobseeker may not wish to go through that route.

However, of course, some disabled people want specialist help and they get it from the disability employment adviser. Those specially trained officers clearly have more expertise and experience than it would be possible for the employment officers negotiating jobseeker's agreements to have. There is a disability employment adviser available to every Jobcentre. That is why the best way to ensure that disabled people receive the best help is to offer them specialist advice, rather than trying to include information, which would necessarily be less individual, in each agreement.

In addition to the services of disability employment advisers, the Employment Service seeks to make available to all jobseekers with disabilities or health problems a leaflet about the help that is available to them through the placing assessment and counselling teams and ability development centres. In recognition of the special needs of disabled jobseekers, there is a wide range of provision, both financial and personal.

My noble friend mentioned people who may be coming off incapacity benefit. As I have said before, the Employment Service will spend an additional £71 million in the first three years of incapacity benefit for all those coming to unemployment from IB, including

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in-depth interviews, specialised help from placing assessment and counselling teams, extra provision on Jobplan, Jobclub and job interview guarantee. People affected by the introduction of incapacity benefit will, therefore, have early access to the most appropriate provision.

Mention has been made of the access to work scheme introduced in June 1994. That extends and replaces existing programmes to provide a wider range of help to more disabled people. The scheme provides help for people prior to finding a job, and help can continue into employment. Help provided includes fares to interview, aids to communication, adaptation to vehicles, and support workers for people with severe disabilities. That might go some way—I hope that it goes further than that—towards addressing one of the anxieties of the noble Lord, Lord Carter, and the noble Earl, Lord Russell, about travel. This financial year there is a budget of £13.4 million for the access to work scheme.

Information about that scheme and other support for disabled jobseekers will be available from the employment officer when the individual makes his claim or in the leaflet that the Employment Service produces about provision for disabled jobseekers.

Those remarks were a little abbreviated, like my noble friend's introductory remarks, but I hope that he will be reassured that we take the needs of people with disabilities seriously. I have set out the additional financial support that is available through the benefits system and the provision that is provided by the Employment Service. I believe that the amendment would remove some of the flexibility that the current system offers to treat people as individuals and respond to their needs. Many of them wish to go down the normal route and do so very successfully indeed. I hope that with those reassurances and explanations my noble friend will be able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Carter: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, when he reads the phraseology of his briefing, I am sure that he would not wish to imply that disabled people seeking employment are rather out of the mainstream or going down an abnormal route. I believe he said that the budget for the access to work scheme was £13 million. Has he an indication of first estimates of the likely cost, as opposed to the budget, for the first year?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I am afraid that I cannot help on the latter point. I only know the budget figure. I hope that in my effort not to take too much time I did not make any injudicious remarks. The point I was trying to make was that many disabled people successfully look for and find work through the mainstream services without going to the disability employment adviser.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his reply and those who supported me. I entirely agree with the Minister that not all disabled people necessarily wish to use the services of the disability employment adviser. What worries me is that so many of them do not know that the help is available or that the access to work scheme exists, as I made clear in my introductory remarks. Can I take it that my noble friend

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will ensure that all employment officers will make certain that disabled people are aware of the services, even if they do not wish to make use of them? I see my noble friend nodding his head in assent, so I am delighted to accept that assurance and have it on the record. With those remarks, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 39:

Page 8, line 4, leave out subsections (6) and (7).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the three Amendments Nos. 39, 91 and 96 are all consequential on the provisions in new Clauses 6 and 7 for permitted periods, which I explained in my remarks when the House was in Committee last week. The permitted period is when a person may be treated as being available if he is prepared to be available only for employment and to seek employment in his usual occupation and at his former rate of pay.

Before the amendment providing for those new clauses, the Bill made provision for a permitted period through regulation-making powers specifying such a period in the jobseeker's agreement and through the provision giving an exemption from sanctions in Clause 18. As we explained during Committee, we were concerned that this construction in the Bill appeared to imply that the jobseeker's agreement, by introducing the notion of the permitted period, itself gives rise (rather than expression) to the conditions of entitlement to JSA. The new subsections in Clauses 6 and 7 were our response to those concerns.

Now that Clause 6 provides for regulations to stipulate the minimum and maximum permitted period and the factors which adjudication officers should take into account in determining the permitted period, there is no need for the provisions relating to the permitted period in Clause 19. For the sake of completeness, I should also explain that the protection from any sanction for failing to apply for or refusing employment outside a person's usual occupation and below the usual rate of remuneration will be secured through regulations under Clause 18 prescribing the circumstances in which a person is to be regarded as having good cause for such refusal. I beg to move these technical amendments.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

9 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Lyell): My Lords, I have to inform the House that if Amendment No. 40 is agreed to, I shall not be able to call Amendment No. 41.

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