The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Hain): I have today placed in the Libraries of both Houses papers relating to decisions that have been taken during the period 5 October 200512 April 2006 which relate to the North/South Implementation Bodies and Tourism Ireland Ltd. under the terms of the exchange of notes of 19 November 2002 (Cmnd 5708).
The Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform (Mr. Jim Murphy): I am pleased to announce today my plans to rollout the successful Pathways to Work service in order to provide substantially more support for all new and repeat incapacity benefits (IB) customers to return to work. This is a significant step in our plans to help 1 million people move off IB over the next 10 years as outlined in our Green Paper, A New Deal for Welfare: Empowering People to Work.
To date Pathways to Work has helped around 25,000 IB customers in just 17 districts return to work. We will build on those successes as we roll out the pathways service nationally to all new and repeat IB customers.
Rollout will start on 30 October 2006 when we will introduce the pathways service in three more Jobcentre Plus districts giving access to a third of all new and repeat IB customers. The new districts are Greater Mersey, Staffordshire, and Eastern Valleys (part of South Wales Valleys).
In December, we will extend the Jobcentre Plus pathways service to the remaining areas of the five, recently enlarged, existing Pathways districts to give 40 per cent. of all new and repeat IB customers access. The areas in the five enlarged districts are Ayrshire Dumfries and Galloway, Northumbria (other than Gateshead), remaining parts of Highland Islands, Clyde Coast and Grampian, Dorset and Somerset, and Sheffield.
In October 2007, private and voluntary sector providers will start to help to deliver the pathways service, extending to the remaining 60 per cent. of new and repeat IB customers by April 2008. We will use providers because our good partnership working with them on other initiatives has shown to be very effective, particularly when we offer them outcome-based contracts and payment by results. Providers will engage with customers after their initial work-focused interview.
Providers will start delivering the pathways service to customers in 15 Jobcentre Plus districts in October 2007. The 15 districts are Greater Manchester east and west, Cardiff and Vale/south-east Wales, Forth Valley Fife Tayside, north Wales and Powys, Black Country, City and East London, Birmingham and Solihull, Nottinghamshire, west Yorkshire, Edinburgh Lothian and Borders, Cornwall and Devon, central London, Lincolnshire and Rutland, Lambeth, Southwark and Wandsworth, and Norfolk.
In April 2008, providers will complete the rollout of the pathways service to customers in the remaining sixteen Jobcentre Plus districts so that the service is available nationally to all new and repeat IB customers. The final 16 districts are north and north-east London, Cheshire and Warrington, west of England, Coventry and Warwickshire, north-east Yorkshire and the Humber, Brent Harrow and Hillingdon west London, Marches, Kent, Leicester/Northants, south and south-east London, Cambridge and Suffolk, Gloucestershire Wiltshire and Swindon, Surrey and Sussex, Hampshire and Isle of Wight, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and Berks, Bucks and Oxfordshire.
Jobcentre Plus will continue to deliver the pathways service in the following 19 districts; Derbyshire, Ayrshire Dumfries Galloway and Inverclyde, Highland Islands, Clyde Coast and Grampian, south Wales Valleys, Northumbria, south Tyne and Wear Valley, Essex, Dorset and Somerset, Lancashire, Cumbria, Glasgow, Tees Valley, south Yorkshire, Lanarkshire and east Dumbartonshire, Liverpool and Wirral, Greater Manchester Central, south-west Wales, Greater Mersey, and Staffordshire.
It provides additional help to new and repeat incapacity benefits customers via five, additional, mandatory, monthly work-focused interviews in the first eight months of the incapacity benefits claim; and via the Choices programme of employment support and, the new return to work credit. Customers who are expected to return to work within nine months of their claim and those who are exempt from the personal capability assessment because they are so severely disabled, are not be required to take part in the five additional work-focused interviews. However, they may participate in any part of the pathways service at any time on a voluntary basis.
As well as the national rollout of the Pathways to Work service, the Green Paper, A New Deal for Welfare: Empowering People to Work, sets out other welfare reforms that we are committed to delivering to help more people move in to work and to end social exclusion. These include: introducing a new employment and support allowance (ESA) to replace IB for new customers in 2008 and improving the gateway to the benefit; piloting employment advisers in GP surgeries to support GPs and primary care teams, revising the format of the medical certificate, and simplifying statutory sick pay; piloting the new cities strategy which will provide a leadership role for cities in tackling worklessness; increasing the frequency of work-focused interviews for lone parents claiming benefits; piloting a new premium for lone parents in exchange for undertaking serious steps towards work; requiring people aged 50-59 to take up the additional jobseeking support available through New Deal 25 plus; piloting face-to-face guidance sessions with people approaching 50 or over 50 to deliver tailored and relevant information on working, training and planning for retirement; and introducing local housing allowance (currently being tested) and developing proposals for national rollout.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. James Plaskitt): My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath) has made the following written ministerial statement.
The Secretary of States report on the standards of decision making in Jobcentre Plus, the Pension Service, the Disability and Carers Service and the Child Support Agency for 2002 and 2003 is published today.
This is the third report under the decision making and appeals system introduced by the Social Security Act 1998. It covers the two-year period from 1 January 2002 to 31 December 2003. The Department apologises for the delay in producing the report which was caused by the need to validate the results it contains in the light of a number of changes to the underlying methodology. While this has provided greater confidence in those results, the Comptroller and Auditor General have not been able to validate all the data in the report. The Departments aim is to ensure that in future such reports are both produced much more swiftly and that they are able to secure the full assurance of the Comptroller and Auditor General.