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Lord Addington: My Lords, I have one brief question for the noble Baroness. Will that process involve bodies receiving back reports? This is one of the reasons the amendment was tabled. Most people go to an organisation if they have a problem. That is generally the way with which these matters are dealt. People look for support. Primarily for the record, can the noble Baroness tell us what would be the process and how a person or group who is not in that loop, can get into it?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, again I am not entirely sure I understand the noble Lord. What is it that the individual client would want to know? I can then perhaps help as to how that information might come to them. Statistics, for example, will be in the annual reports, the quarterly reports, the PQs and so forth. Guidance notes would go through to CABs and voluntary organisations. If information is required

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about the consultation that has taken place with the voluntary organisations, that may be in the voluntary organisations' annual reports. Perhaps the noble Lord can help me further.

Lord Addington: My Lords, what I am trying to get at--it is like pulling teeth and I apologise to the House for this--is that when people have problems, they tend to go to help groups; groups that exist outside the Government, such as the voluntary organisations. People go there for support when they feel they have a problem. The amendment seeks to bring those groups into the legislation, and this is by no means an exhaustive list. They would then be able to tell the Government if they have a problem. The process is extremely important to people's lives. If the Government go to the groups straightaway, it simply tightens the link. Will the Government have a format whereby people will know where to go to become involved in the link?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, if any group is not involved but would like to be, perhaps it will contact us because we are working closely with all the major national organisations; those for disabled people; those for people who have a language other than English as their first language; those for ethnic minority groups, and so forth. We believe that our trawl was extensive, and the DSS has a lot of experience in this. But if the noble Lord feels that any specific organisations should have a voice but may have been overlooked, I shall be grateful if he will let me know. I shall ensure that they are embraced within the procedures.

Lord Addington: My Lords, being told in Parliament that there will be a constantly open door is probably what I was seeking. Having been offered that invitation on the Floor of this Chamber is about as good as it is going to get and I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 9

Page 67, line 41, at end insert--
("(2) This section is subject to section 84(4A).").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, we return to the same issue we were discussing in Amendment No. 7; that is, the issue of compulsion. We have had two theoretical cases competing with each other put fairly powerfully on both sides. Amendment No. 9 asked for evidence. To obtain evidence to choose between two rival sets of principles is not an ignoble ambition.

The question is: when people are actually disentitled to benefit, what happens to them? We know very little about that. I do not see how we can consider the effect of a policy of disentitlement when we do not know what happens. We get then a contest between two opposite moral principles without any way of anchoring either of them in experience.

We know a limited amount. There is government research in the MORI report on 16 and 17 year-olds and the incapacity benefit leavers tracking study, both

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of which show a significant percentage of those affected as having no income. Those people are not actually dead, so they must be keeping alive in some other way. It could be of interest to find out in precisely what way they are keeping alive; to find out in particular how many of them are suffering ill health. Anyone who has read the Acheson report knows perfectly well that there is a clear link between poverty and ill health, and a clear link between being on benefit and ill health. One would expect, therefore, that there might be an even clearer link between having no benefit and ill health.

It is no good simply asserting that as a hypothesis. We ought to have some evidence on it. We know also that a number of people who have got into drug running have done so because they were disentitled to benefit and because it was the only way they could make a living. The MORI report on 16 and 17 year-olds documented that, among other pieces of research. Amendment No. 9 suggests that, when compulsion is brought in under this Bill, the Government should set up pilot studies into the effect of the compulsion and what happens over the next year to the people who have been disentitled to benefit. Presumably those who hold for the idea that it is a short, sharp, salutary shock suppose that those to whom it happens decide to reform their ways and return to actively seeking work and generally conform. Whether that is the case, or whether those concerned sink into an underclass, disappear from the records without trace and do things which would not stand very much inquiry, is a question of some importance.

You cannot judge whether a policy is justified until you know the nature of its actual effects. On the one hand, it is asserted that it is not right to pay people benefit for doing nothing, while, on the other hand, it is asserted that all these people are human beings and we should not starve them. Why cannot we have some decent information? I have been asking for this for a long time; and I am still asking. I beg to move.

7.30 p.m.

Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, we fully support a proposal for a full review of the pilot schemes, in particular the gathering and publication of information regarding the outcome of those who do not attend personal adviser meetings. I should say here that I am very pleased to be referring to the ONE interview as that; indeed, I am grateful to the Minister for that change. What happens in relation to the benefits of these claimants if they fail to turn up three times? What happens to those people? Are the procedures introduced at the pilot scheme stage flexible enough in practice to deal with all those who must attend?

The amendment proposed highlights the diverse situations which the interviewer may find himself or herself in as a personal adviser coping with those interviews. Can the Minister say whether the processes for communicating with the Benefits Agency are sufficient to cope with what one might describe as "exceptional cases"?

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We welcome the pilot schemes. However, we believe that the Government have, in large part, accepted the enormity of the challenge of introducing the personal attendance meetings. Indeed, they have undertaken the pilot schemes to see how the process works. Therefore, it would surely make sense to evaluate the workings--the successes and the failures--before bringing Clause 57 into force.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, part of the answer to evaluating what we are doing with the ONE programme was, I hope, given to your Lordships in reply to the previous question; namely, that we are monitoring both quantitatively, in terms of the number of people coming through, and qualitatively, in terms of the experience from the perception of the client, the personal adviser and the voluntary organisations. We seek to feed that back into the training and learning experience of the personal advisers who, as I believe all noble Lords recognise, will be at the heart of this process.

In terms of monitoring what is happening with the ONE programme, I hope that noble Lords will accept that, as regards the previous amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, monitoring and evaluation will continue. However, the second part of the amendment is a worry, as expressed very powerfully, as always, by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, concerning what will happen to those who are disentitled. There are two separate issues here: first, the degree of monitoring of the scheme overall; and, secondly, what will happen to those who are disentitled.

The noble Earl referred particularly to the lack of evidence as regards the withdrawal of other benefits which would enable us to see what is happening. We believe that clients will be keen to participate in the meetings that we propose. Of the two pieces of research that are to hand on those who have come off benefit, one of them, which relates to those who leave incapacity benefit as a result of no longer meeting the eligibility conditions, was quoted by the noble Earl, Lord Russell. However, I wonder whether the noble Earl is also familiar with the research regarding those who have been disentitled to JSA and what happened to them, which was published in 1998. The findings in that respect were mixed. The research did not indicate that the respondents had ended up in prison, but--

Earl Russell: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister who actually recommended that research to me at the time. I have indeed read it. There is information on the availability or not of income, but not on how people succeeded in making a living. That is what we need to know.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Possibly, my Lords. However, what the research also showed--and I think this is pertinent to our discussion this evening--was that respondents wanted more face-to-face treatment; that is to say, someone to explain what was happening to them. They also said that they needed better

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explanations and more consistent information, which is precisely what ONE aims to provide. In other words, of those JSA claimants who became disentitled, one of the consistent complaints was that they had not had the face-to-face service that the ONE programme is designed to introduce.

We believe that the vast majority of people will want, and recognise, the propriety of having an interview as a pathway into their benefit. We expect the numbers regarding those disentitled to be very small. We want to elicit co-operation, not impose sanctions. We want to remind people of the safeguards, especially those who may be vulnerable. First, the personal advisers have the ability to waive or defer meetings. Secondly, clients will have three opportunities to attend a meeting before a decision is made that they have failed to take part. Thirdly, clients will get numerous clear verbal and written reminders of the need to have a meeting as part of the condition of claiming benefit, which will be drafted with the help of the lobby groups.

There will also be a comprehensive good-cause provision to ensure that those who fail to attend with good cause are not penalised. Clients will be able to dispute or appeal against decisions that they failed to take part, and they can have those decisions overturned. I repeat what I said earlier. We will visit people in their homes when this is appropriate. Moreover, if we have failed to make any contact with someone, we will ensure that we make a home visit first before there is any move to disentitle him or her from benefit. At the end of the day, I really believe that the numbers of those disentitled will be extremely small. I hope that it will be a wilful choice and not one caused by either lack of information on the side of the client or lack of effort on the side of the agency.

In light of the fact that we are, on the one hand, tracking very carefully through research what is happening to the ONE process and, on the other hand, putting in place an abundant array of safeguards for those who might be at risk of losing a benefit, such as those I have just itemised to the House, I hope that the noble Earl will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

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