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Baroness Buscombe: I am not sure that the Minister has understood. I was suggesting that as regards the level of professionalism and training which we have been reassured this evening will take place, £2,500 per person is not much money. We suggest that it will cost more. That figure does not pay for a lot of training.

I am sorry that the Minister is not prepared to accept this amendment and have on the face of the Bill a requirement for an annual report. I thought that this Government were keen on annual reports to Parliament. I am pleased that the noble Baroness has reassured us that we shall be receiving ongoing information as regards the cost implications and the successes and failures concerning both the pilot schemes and full implementation if the scheme goes ahead on the results of those schemes.

I revert to a statement I made earlier this evening which was a plea on our behalf that we may all have the opportunity to debate the successes and failures and evaluate the results of the pilot schemes before the scheme is fully implemented. On that basis I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 54 agreed to.

Schedule 7 agreed to.

Clause 55 agreed to.

Clause 56 [Incapacity for work: personal capability assessments]:

Lord Higgins moved Amendment No. 120:

Page 65, line 17, at end insert--
("provided that in making the assessment under paragraphs (a) and (b) above, account shall be taken of the types of jobs available in the locality")

The noble Lord said: This amendment stands in my name and that of my honourable friends--

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Did the noble Lord refer to his "honourable friends"?

Lord Higgins: I meant to say "noble friends", but perhaps at this time of night I can refer to both.

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When making an assessment under paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (2) of this clause, our amendment seeks to ensure that,

    "account shall be taken of the types of jobs available in the locality".

This matter was debated at considerable length in another place. This clause is concerned with personal capability assessments as far as concerns people taking jobs. We shall deal with that aspect in greater depth when we discuss the Question on whether this clause should stand part of the Bill. After a personal capability assessment had been carried out and a person had been told that he was regarded as being fit for work, it would be unfortunate if it then turned out that there was no job appropriate to that level of capability in the particular location. It seems to us that that is something which ought to be taken into account. I beg to move.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I have a very full answer in front of me, but I wonder whether there is a basic misunderstanding here. A person's incapacity benefit will depend, as now, on whether he satisfies the all-work test, which is the 15-point score. That situation will not change. I cannot believe that the noble Lord really wants the question of whether someone receives IB to depend on whether, for example, he lives in Croydon or Cumbria as regards the local job prospects. As I have said many times before, that will remain unchanged.

When it comes to the personal capability assessment--for example, looking at what people may be able to do and what training they may be able to have--that will, of course, involve some consideration of the local job prospects in the sense that it would be foolish to train people for jobs that had become obsolete in various ways. However, the point is that their benefit does not hinge on anything to do with the employment situation. Indeed, under this assessment, we shall be talking about what people may do, what training they may have, what childcare needs they may have, and so on. That will be independent of the local employment situation in so far as those skills or those needs for information are generalist. Obviously, it may equally be appropriate to take into account the local job situation in terms of the opportunities available to people; but that cannot affect their benefit level.

Therefore, before I read out a long speech, I wonder whether there is some basic misunderstanding between myself and the noble Lord. The benefit is a national one which depends on a national test. It does not matter where a person lives; it is not related to employment prospects. However, it may be relevant to consider such prospects when dealing with the personal capability assessment as regards what people can do, what opportunities are available, and what training may be appropriate. But surely that should be seen as an opportunity and not as a threat. Obviously, once in receipt of benefit, any disabled persons entitled to IB need take no further action if they do not wish to do so.

Lord Higgins: The issue may become clearer if the Minister were to refer to the Hansard report of the debates in another place. Essentially, if someone is

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found to have the ability to take a job, we are saying that that needs to be related to the type of job available in the locality.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: If someone receives IB, he is neither expected nor required to take a job. Whether people receive that benefit depends on the all-work test and not on the employment situation in the area. The personal capability test has nothing to do with whether or not someone is expected to take a job; it is a compulsory interview but any action following it is entirely up to the person involved.

10.30 p.m.

Lord Higgins: We are clearly somewhat at cross purposes here. We shall need to consider what the noble Baroness said. I still think it is appropriate in assessing whether someone is capable of doing a job that the kind of job he or she is considered capable of doing should be a relevant consideration. However, at this hour of the night I do not wish to delay the Committee further. There are other extremely important amendments for which people have been waiting a long time. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Addington moved Amendment No. 120A:

Page 65, line 17, at end insert--
("(c) for the doctor conducting the personal capability assessment to provide both the claimant and the person who shall conduct the claimant's work-focused interview under section 2A of the Administration Act (work-focused interviews) with an assessment of the claimant's future incapacity for work based on a medical prognosis of the claimant's disability or disease.")

The noble Lord said: I shall speak as briefly as possible. The amendment suggests that a copy of the assessment of a person's capacity under the all-work test should be given to that person. On the grounds that some 60 per cent of people who fail this test appeal, and half of that number have their appeals upheld either by the appeals tribunal or the adjudication officer, I should have thought that allowing them to have a copy of the doctor's assessment might be appropriate. I beg to move.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My concentration may have slipped but what benefit was the noble Lord referring to when he gave the figures for appeals? Was he talking about IB, DLA or SDA? He could not have been talking about the personal capability assessment because it has only just come in in the past fortnight.

Lord Addington: I was talking about the all-work test.

Lord Hardy of Wath: I express some sympathy with the approach which the amendment suggests. I speak from my experience as a Member of the other place some years ago. At that time a doctor was practising in my area and was causing a number of people considerable anxiety and their Member of Parliament considerable rage. I refer to one case where the doctor

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arrived at a constituent's house to examine a lady who was very ill. He did not take his coat off and he did not stay in the house more than two minutes. Nevertheless, he decided that the lady was fit and well despite the fact that her weight had dropped from 12 to seven stone in the previous week. Three weeks later she died of cancer. I received a letter of remorse, apology and regret from a Minister in the previous government, although that did not bring the family involved much comfort.

I believe that from time to time governments need to ensure that those engaged in the public service should recognise that their job is not to defend the taxpayer or to save public spending. The amendment may not be acceptable but the compassion and care which I think is suggested in the amendment should be encouraged.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: This amendment does two things. First, it provides for both the claimant and the personal adviser to receive a report following a personal capability assessment. Secondly, it states that the report must consist of a medical assessment of the person's future incapacity for work.

The key issue here--I think that it is an important one--is the question of providing information to claimants. It may help if I put the matter in context by dealing with the other issues first. In response to the previous amendment I explained the whole thrust-- I hope--of our proposals for the personal capability assessment which is to provide personal advisers with information about what the person can do despite his or her medical condition. We want to do this in a way that will be relevant, useful and helpful in the "one" interview.

To recap, the PCA will be a single medical assessment process which will produce two entirely separate things: first, advice for the benefit decision-maker on whether the entitlement criteria for incapacity benefits are met--the all-work test--and, secondly, a capability report for the personal adviser.

The provision of the capability report to the personal adviser is already fully covered in the Bill. Clause 67 provides all the necessary powers for information relevant to work-focused interviews to be passed to personal advisers. It is complemented by provisions in Part II of Schedule 8 which ensure that the PCA can go beyond what is strictly necessary for the purposes of determining entitlement to benefit. However, I do not think that that is where the noble Lord's concerns lie. Nor do I think it necessary to specify that the capability report should provide an assessment of the claimant's future incapacity for work based on medical prognosis. It assumes that the personal adviser needs to know whether the person is incapable of work for benefit purposes now and whether that is likely to remain the case in future.

The personal adviser clearly needs to know whether the medical condition is likely to change so as to make particular types of work more or less likely. But the personal adviser really needs to know what the person can do despite his condition--or what he could do with the right help and support. That is what the report is about.

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It is also important that we do not set its precise content in legislative stone. We are carrying out development work on this and it will be on trial in the "one" service pilots over the course of the year.

I shall now return to the main issue. I do not think the question raised was really about the information going from the medical assessment to the personal adviser. I suspect that the noble Lord is pressing--certainly I would in his situation--for the information to be available to the claimant when he or she sees the PCA.

We believe that it may be unhelpful for the Bill to specify that the claimant must be sent a copy of the capability report by the doctor. There is no question of these reports being kept secret. The requirements of open government are set out both in the current code of practice and in the Government's proposed freedom of information legislation. We shall ensure that people are able to see the contents of the report. Access to information is not the issue.

It seems to me that, in a way, the question is a second-order one. It is whether people should routinely be given a copy of the capability report and, if so, whether they should get it before their work-focused interview. That is something on which the Government have a genuinely open mind and are considering carefully as a part of the development work. It is not perhaps as straightforward as it may seem. One could have information, for example, which related to a terminal illness or a prognosis which is not already known to the claimant, whether because he has not been informed by his GP or whatever.

It is worth reminding ourselves that the personal advisers will have that report. It may be right that all claimants should have copies as a matter of course. My own view at the moment--but obviously we are considering the matter--is that the right way may be to make it clear that people can have a copy, and then it may be appropriate for them to be sent a copy if they signal that they would like one. It is clear that it would be most usefully done in the context of the interview itself. As I have said, we have an open mind on that.

There is no question of the claimant not being entitled to see the report. I am not sure whether sending it out routinely is the right approach. It may be that we should indicate that people are entitled to see it, in which case that may meet the noble Lord's concerns. In the light of that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

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