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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Mr. Roger Evans): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time The new clause deals with the mechanics of implementing my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State's November uprating statement that housing benefit and council tax benefit would run on for four weeks after returning to work for those unemployed or lone parents who have been on jobseeker's allowance or income support for six months or more. It is the Government's intention that that run-on should begin from the outset of the implementation of JSA becoming payable in April 1996. For the purposes of the period beginning in April 1996, it is envisaged that six months on unemployment benefit or income support previously would count.
Column 355This is designed to deal with the major concern of those who are moving off benefits and on to work as to whether they will be able to pay the rent in the initial period of their return to work. This is quite an expensive measure. It will cost £50 million a year and it is anticipated that it will benefit about 440,000 individuals a year. If this measure is to work, the mechanics must be in place to ensure that there is a smooth run-on. The first two subsections of new clause 7 deal with the situation that occurs when jobseekers move from one local authority where they have been receiving housing benefit to another local authority to obtain work. The purpose of the two subsections is to give a regulatory power to require information to be exchanged between local authorities.
Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow): Will the Under- Secretary confirm that the measure will give protection to share fishermen, who may have to wait some time before they receive their share--in other words, their wages--from the landings of a vessel? The hon. Gentleman may smile. I am talking about only a few men, but this is important.
Mr. Evans: The hon. Gentleman sees me smiling, but I mean no disrespect towards the problems of share fishermen. They have received special treatment throughout the passage of the legislation, as they have for many years. I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman off the top of my head the precise way in which the rule applies to them, but I shall write to him on the issue.
The first two subsections of the clause deal with the regulatory power to require information to be exchanged and the third with the regulatory power to require authorities to give priority to jobseekers. Local authorities are already under a legal obligation to determine all housing benefit and council tax benefit claims within 14 days of receipt of the necessary information. The powers in the clause will not change that, nor will they prevent local authorities from treating any particular claim as a matter of extreme urgency. They will afford a general priority for determining claims by jobseekers.
To complete the picture, I should explain that we also plan to introduce a financial incentive and penalty scheme to encourage all local authorities to process quickly new claims from those claiming this most important run- on. Additional or reduced subsidy will be paid to local authorities according to whether they process claims effectively.
Mr. Keith Bradley (Manchester, Withington): I shall be brief, as I do not wish to delay the Report stage. This is not the place to go into the detail of the new jobseeker's allowance. We welcome the measure, which will speed up the administration of benefits for people moving in and out of work. A major bone of contention has been that delay has often led to financial difficulties--particularly, as the Under-Secretary said, with rent payments--and any measure to speed the process up is welcome.
I am also pleased about the Under-Secretary's assurances that subsection (1)(b)--which enables
"priority to be given to certain persons"--
does not in any way undermine the general administration of benefit claims. One may feel on seeing words such as "priority" that other people are being de-prioritised and pushed down a waiting list. I welcome the Under- Secretary's assurances that the Government intend
Column 356to ensure that all such claims are dealt with speedily and efficiently. I am sure that local authorities throughout the country will respond to that request.
There are good and bad practices in such administration, and we want to ensure that all authorities use the best possible good practice. This measure in no way seeks to undermine that intention. People who clearly need a speedy response from the benefit system must not get that response at the expense of other people who have an equal need for such a speedy response, and we must ensure that we do not bring hardship to particular claimants. I am pleased that the Government have introduced the new clause, the need for which they identified in Committee.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
`.--(1) Regulations under section 4(5) shall provide for the applicable amount, in a case where as a result of a physical or mental disability the claimant has to incur additional costs for the purpose of complying with the terms of a jobseeker's agreement or a jobseeker's direction, to include an amount in respect of those costs.
(2) Regulations under subsections (2) and (3) of section 6 may, in particular, provide for any difficulties or discrimination faced by disabled persons in seeking or obtaining employment to be taken into account.
(3) Regulations under section 6(2)(a) and (c) may, in particular, provide that a person who has made and is pursuing an appeal against the determination of an adjudication officer that he is not incapable of work and whose medical practitioner, or another person with a prescribed qualification, supplies evidence of his continuing incapacity for work shall be treated as available for and actively seeking employment pending the determination of his appeal. (4) For the purposes of sections 7 and 8, in any case where-- (a) the claimant's availability for employment is restricted as a result of a physical or mental disability or partial incapacity, or (b) it was determined in accordance with the provisions of Part XIIA of the Benefits Act that he was incapable of all work for any period during the eight weeks preceding his claim,
the employment officer, as defined in section 7(15), shall be a person designated by the Secretary of State as a disability employment adviser.
(5) Regulations under section 16(3) may, in particular, provide for an income-based jobseeker's allowance, which would otherwise be prevented from being paid by section 15, to be payable at a prescribed rate where the claimant or his partner is sick or disabled.
(6) In this section--
(a) "jobseeker's direction" has the same meaning as in section 15;
(b) "partner" has such meaning as may be prescribed; and (c) "sick or disabled" has such meaning as may be prescribed.'.-- [Mr. Bradley.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
New clause 2 deals with some of the problems which thousands more disabled people who will be expected to sign on for jobseeker's allowance will face as a result of the more restrictive test for incapacity benefit. It would help the Employment Service to administer the new system.
Column 357It is important to put our concerns in context. It is estimated that 190,000 disabled people will come off invalidity benefit and that an additional 55,000 people will fail to qualify for incapacity benefit in the first year of the jobseeker's allowance. That means that an additional 245,000 who have substantial disabilities are expected to sign on as unemployed and claim JSA. Not only will many of those people face a lower level of income than they would have received under incapacity benefit, but many will receive less than they would have received under the current unemployment benefit. For example, for a 40-year-old woman there is a difference of up to £18.60 a week between the higher rate of incapacity benefit at £65.05 and unemployment benefit, currently at £46.45.
Let us consider why many groups of people will be worse off under JSA than under unemployment benefit. The Labour party believes that there are five key reasons for that. First, contributory JSA will be paid for only six, instead of for 12, months. That is at the heart of the Bill. It is an attempt to cut contributory benefit from 12 months to six months and to move people after six months on to means-tested benefit, so extending the poverty trap and forcing people to be means-tested earlier. At the same time, the Government are increasing national insurance contributions from 9 to 10 per cent. In other words, people will pay more and get less out of the national insurance contributory system.
The rationale for the change is that the majority of claimants have only a short spell of unemployment lasting six months or less. However, the evidence strongly suggests that that is not the case for disabled people. Research by the social and community planning research department found that half of the disabled people who were actively looking for work had been doing so for a year and that a further third had been doing so for three years. That hardly bears out the Government's view that people come off the dole within six months.
Secondly, contributory JSA will be reduced pound for pound where people receive an occupational or private pension of more than £50 a week. Previously, that applied to pensions of more than £35 a week paid to people over the age of 55. The new rule could adversely affect some disabled people who are taken off incapacity benefit if they receive payment from a previous employer in recognition of their ill health or disability. Contributory JSA could be reduced or lost completely. A 50-year -old man with an occupational pension of £60 a week will lose £10 a week from his contributory JSA. Under unemployment benefit, the payment would not have been reduced because he was aged under 55.
Thirdly, no increase will be payable for a non-working partner unless the partner looks after children or is aged over 60. Removing the dependence allowance for a non-working spouse or partner means that contributory JSA will amount to a personal allowance only. Another good example is that of a 34-year-old man who has an injury at work which prevents him from working, for which he receives a lump sum compensation of £20,000. He has two children and a wife who cares for the children. He would receive £127.45 per week incapacity benefit, which includes an allowance for adult and child dependants.
Column 358If that person moved to unemployment benefit, he would receive £74.50, which would include an allowance for his wife. Under the jobseeker's allowance, however, he would receive only the basic rate of £46.50--a staggering difference of £80.96 per week between incapacity benefit and jobseeker's allowance. His savings of £20,000 as compensation for his injury would preclude him from the means-tested jobseeker's allowance, leaving him with only his six months contributory jobseeker's allowance.
Fourthly, the contributory jobseeker's allowance is limited to six months, thus bringing in means-tested benefits sooner. An earlier means test could bite especially hard for people with income or savings above the limit. The change could affect disabled women disproportionately, especially if they are leaving incapacity benefit, as they are more likely than male claimants to have a partner who is working full time, which would exclude them from the means-tested jobseeker's allowance. The savings limit of more than £8,000 could exclude disabled people with capital from compensation for personal injuries.
Fifthly and finally, on the rationale, disabled people may incur additional costs in their job search because of their disability. In Committee, Ministers said that they would consider the extra expenses incurred by disabled jobseekers and I will return to that matter later.
That is the context within which our new clause is framed. It is an attempt to tackle the consequences of those fundamental changes in unemployment benefit and the introduction of the jobseeker's allowance.
Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey): Does my hon. Friend agree that it is odd for the House to be debating this issue, which affects the sick and the disabled in particular, at the same time as the Government are proclaiming their conversion to new rights for disabled people in their flawed Disability Discrimination Bill, which will be coming before the House next week?
Mr. Bradley: Throughout our deliberations on Report, we shall be looking closely at the interface between people with disabilities and unemployment and at the Government's Bill on discrimination, which clearly does not go any way towards tackling the real needs of disabled people in the workplace, especially as regards small employers. We shall consider that carefully and in detail as the day progresses.
The purpose of the new clause is to alleviate some of the consequences of the new Bill. First, it will help with additional costs in complying with the jobseeker's agreement or direction.
Mr. Bradley: If the hon. Gentleman reads the new clause, he will see that its purpose is to prescribe in regulations the extent to which the Government will help disabled people. We are flagging up the intention that that should be done through regulation and we do not
Column 359prescribe the amount in the new clause. To answer the question directly, if the new clause helps disabled people back into employment and gets them off benefits, at worst, its effects will be neutral and the measure will probably result in a saving to the social security budget.
The purpose is to help people with the additional costs of complying with the jobseeker's agreement or direction. Disabled people may face additional costs.
The additional cost of job seeking for disabled people, compared with able- bodied people, may include travel to interviews, speculative visits to employers or even visits to the Employment Service. For example, people with sensory impairments may need assistance in approaching employers by telephone or letter, or in looking for advertisements. They may need to be accompanied to an interview by a signer. Under the Government's access to work scheme, payments may be made for equipment, adaptation to premises or transport costs to help disabled people in work. However, like the disability working allowance, it is limited to people who are already in work, so offers of help to someone trying to find a job in the first place are not available. In Committee, the Minister of State, Department of Employment showed some sympathy with the argument that disabled people faced additional costs when searching for a job, and I look forward to a positive response from her when she winds up the debate.
Secondly, the new clause provides for difficulties of discrimination faced by disabled people in seeking or obtaining employment. In the first year of the jobseeker's allowance, an estimated 190,000 people coming off incapacity benefit will have considerable difficulties in sustaining job search activities. Except for a minority regarded as incapable of work, most incapacity benefit claimants must score at least 15 points in a test of physical or mental functions, or at least 10 points in a test of mental ability alone. The arbitrary cut-off at 15, taking no other factors into account, means that a score of 14, which confirms a substantial disability, would disqualify someone from incapacity benefit. In addition, DSS research reports Nos. 19 and 20 into invalidity benefit conclude that the constraints arising from disability or health problems disadvantage disabled people in the labour market relative to other jobseekers. Likely to face most difficulty are those over the age of 50 with a background in manual work and no qualifications. Similarly, research by Scope shows that an able-bodied job applicant is six times more likely to receive a positive response from an employer than a disabled applicant. The Government's Disability Discrimination Bill, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) referred earlier, fails to deal with the extent of employment discrimination as small employers are excluded from its provisions. It is therefore important that
Column 360both a person's disability and the existence of discrimination be taken into account by the Employment Service when drawing up a jobseeker's agreement, considering what steps should be taken when a disabled person is actively seeking work and in imposing a jobseeker's direction.
Thirdly, where someone appeals against a decision that he or she is capable of work and where evidence of continuing incapacity is provided, the new clause provides that the person should be treated automatically as available for, and actively seeking, work. Currently, people who appeal against a decision that they are capable for work can, pending their appeal, either sign on or claim income support without signing on. Pending an appeal hearing, income support rules allow someone to claim without being required to be available for work where the person's GP continues to supply evidence of incapacity for work.
In Committee on 23 February, the Under-Secretary of State for Social Security announced that, as from April 1995, all new incapacity benefit claimants who appeal against a decision that they are capable of work will, if they are not signing on, be subject to a 20 per cent. reduction in their basic rate of income support. That new measure is a harsh, worrying and unnecessary appeal penalty. As well as the prospect of living on an income that will be severely reduced from £46.50 to £37.20 a week for a single person, people in that position are likely to be left with a gap in their national insurance credits unless they win their appeal. Furthermore, that new rule will push more people towards the Employment Service to sign on and have a further impact on the administration of the jobseeker's allowance.
Ms Eagle: My hon. Friend may remember that in Committee the Minister said that those who decided to sign on and therefore said that they were available for work would not be prejudiced in their appeal against the original decision that they were fit to work. Has he heard anything since to convince him that that rather weak assurance is worth while?
Mr. Bradley: The silence from the Government on that is deafening. I hope that the Minister will be able to offer us further assurances because disability organisations have been horrified at the new measure. I am sure that they have expressed their protests already to the Department of Social Security, locally and nationally. The benefit penalty is particularly harsh and I am sure that the Minister will be urged by hon. Members on both sides of the House to reconsider it.
Subsection (4) would ensure that where a person's
"availability for employment is restricted as a result of a physical or mental disability"
or that person was incapable of work in the previous eight weeks before his claim, he should be seen by a disability employment adviser. The White Paper on the jobseeker's allowance and the Department of Employment's press release, dated 14 February 1995, stated:
"All jobseekers whose physical and mental condition limits their availability will be able to restrict the type or hours of work for which they are available in line with their condition."
However, the current law goes wider than that. The disabled person may need to restrict not just the type or the hours of work, because evidence suggests that a range of factors may be important in restricting the kind of work that someone could reasonably be expected to do.
Column 361Disabled people signing on may need to place considerable restrictions on their availability for particular types of jobs and the method and distance of the journey to work.
According to the 14 February press release, an additional £71 million will be made available in the next three years as a number of people are expected to come off incapacity benefit and sign on. It is unclear how well those resources will be used. I hope that the Minister will be able to give further details about that when she replies.
Disabled people will need qualified advice and assistance to help with their job search. The new clause would ensure that, from the outset, the person entering into a jobseeker's agreement with the disabled person was someone from the Department of Employment's advisory service. That person would have specialist knowledge of disabilities. Unless more specialist resources are made available, assistance for increased numbers of disabled jobseekers could be considerably reduced, because we are already aware of a waiting list of disabled people seeking assistance from the Employment Service. Finally, the new clause deals with hardship payments to disabled people. The Bill includes new powers to increase the use of sanctions against people who "break the benefit rules". In that context, it is important that any sanctions are applied fairly and reasonably to disabled people, so that those sanctions do not disadvantage them in any further way. At present, if someone is disqualified from unemployment benefit he receives a reduced amount of income support--up to 40 per cent. less than the designated amount. Under the jobseeker's allowance, there is no automatic payment, even of a reduced amount. Paragraph 4.39 of the White Paper on the jobseeker's allowance states:
"Although payments will not normally be available during the first two weeks of a benefit sanction, exceptions will be made for disabled people and carers."
The Bill does not suggest how such people could be identified. In Committee, the Minister said that the Government would use "definitions used in the regulations which currently apply to those who fail the actively-seeking-work test in income support. . .all claimants undergoing a sanction, even those in the vulnerable groups, must demonstrate hardship before they receive a payment."--[ Official Report, Standing Committee B , 21 February 1995; c. 530.] There is no guarantee of payment, even for vulnerable groups, as only 48 per cent. of those applying for hardship payments under those rules were awarded payments.
The new clause allows for provision to be made for sick and disabled people in that context. Given the additional costs that confront disabled people, any reduction in benefit is likely to have a massive impact. It could be argued that benefit reduction should be far less than 40 per cent., or that the benefit rate should be paid in full if the claimant or the partner has a disability.
In conclusion, I can do no better than to quote the opinions expressed by Sir Peter Large of the Association of Disabled Professionals, who said:
"Rather than seek some open-ended commitment to cover any number of undefined extra costs that a disabled person might incur in seeking work"--
Column 362I refer here to the intervention of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, North (Mr. Heald)--the new clause is
"Government-friendly in that it allows specific additional expenses to be closely prescribed in detail in regulations." I hope that, in that spirit, the Government will consider the new clause and realise that it is intended to help disabled people return to work and so reduce their dependence on benefits. I hope that, as the measures could be prescribed by the Government in regulation, they will look on it with favour.
Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon): I know that my right hon. and hon. Friends would agree that, as the legislation is framed and the regulations under it are considered, sensitive consideration is needed of the position and needs of the long-term sick and of disabled people. We need to think very carefully about the appropriate interplay between the incapacity benefit system and the jobseeker's allowance.
A great many people will be affected by the changes, and a great many vulnerable people, as the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Bradley) told us. It is anticipated that about 220,000 people who are now in receipt of invalidity benefit may fail to qualify for incapacity benefit and about 55,000 new claimants who would have qualified for invalidity benefit will not qualify for incapacity benefit. Perhaps 190,000 people will in due course come off invalidity benefit or incapacity benefit to go on to jobseeker's allowance. We are talking of large numbers of people.
The sick and the disabled have a very real apprehension--it is one that I share--that significant numbers of them will not be sick enough to qualify for incapacity benefit but will not be fit enough to qualify for jobseeker's allowance. They will not be able to satisfy the rigorous requirements for availability and actively seeking work.
The test that is being instituted to enable people to qualify for incapacity benefit has an absolutist character, whereas the realities of the labour market are highly complex. It seems to me that that disjunction of approaches will inevitably throw up difficulties. We cannot realistically isolate, in some objective sense, individuals' capacity to work. Their capacity for work in truth depends on the circumstances in which they find themselves; on the interaction of their life history and their unique configuration of abilities with the circumstances around them and the conditions in the labour market. I am sure that my right hon. Friends will want to develop the system to provide real and effective bridges between those two regimes.
I commend to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State the suggestion made by the Disablement Income Group, which appears constructive and practical, that the disability employment advisers should be involved in reconsidering cases in which people have narrowly failed to qualify for incapacity benefit as a result of taking the medical test. It would be good if those marginal cases could be reviewed and referred back to the Benefits Agency medical service for another look. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench will think about that.
I also hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will wish--as they suggested they would during our debates last year on the Social Security (Incapacity for Work) Bill--to look systematically at the linking rules. There are
Column 363generous linking rules for the disability working allowance. I know that my right hon. and hon. Friends will wish to consider the matter carefully and with open minds.
Ms Eagle: The hon. Gentleman is making an interesting comparison with the disability working allowance, but surely he will admit that few people have been able to claim that allowance simply because it is available only when they have already overcome the major hurdle of obtaining work. Does he have any views on what problems might be caused in the administration of the benefits by the sheer numbers who will be in the system once incapacity benefit is introduced and both processes begin to bite?
Mr. Howarth: There are, perhaps, two points. I know that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench have been somewhat disappointed by the take-up of the disability working allowance and have taken steps to liberalise the rules for DWA to encourage, and make it possible for, more people to benefit from it. I very much agree with the hon. Lady that, given the numbers of people who will be in the hinterland between incapacity benefit and jobseeker's allowance, a great many demands will be placed on administration. That is an extremely important consideration.
Last year the Government undertook to look systematically and carefully at linking rules and the progression from one benefit to another of disabled people. I hope that the Government will apply that approach when considering the relationship between incapacity benefit and jobseeker's allowance. We shall need to have flexibility and it is the Government's responsibility to ensure that there is not a gulf between the two benefits into which vulnerable people can fall and find themselves altogether without benefit.
I am unclear whether the rules that allow sick or disabled people to restrict their availability for work--taking reasonable account of where the job may be located or the conditions of work in a particular employment --are to be carried through to the jobseeker's allowance. Hon. Members must forgive me if the matter has already been dealt with in Committee, but if it has not been clarified, it would be helpful if my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Employment could cast some light on it.
It is tremendously important that the jobseeker's agreement takes account of the needs of an individual disabled person. The agreement must, of course, take account of the individual needs of any claimant, but that is particularly important for disabled people. I hope that we may have some reassurance on that point. I have a more radical suggestion for my hon. Friend the Minister. I am encouraged to see her turning round in her place and smiling at me. I smile on her and wonder whether, in her present benign mood, with the milk of human kindness coursing through her, she feels able to agree to allow the long-term sick and disabled to receive the contributory jobseeker's allowance for 12 months instead of six.
It is important to recognise that, as we are all too well aware, there are fewer jobs available for the disabled, regardless of discrimination. In the nature of things, it is harder for many disabled people to find work. However arduously and determinedly they look for work, typically,
Column 364it takes them longer to find work. The hon. Member for Withington cited research carried out by Patricia Prescott- Clarke who found that half of those disabled people who were actively seeking work had been looking for more than one year and that one third had been seeking work for more than three years. Could the Minister find some margin in the public finances which would allow them to receive contributory benefit for 12 months instead of six? It would make an enormous difference to them and to their families.
I would also like a more lenient sanctions regime to apply to the disabled- -just as I would like it to apply to many others. Surely the disabled should be able to refuse work or training that is not suited to their needs.
The National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux has raised an important point, based on its extensive practical experience in the field, concerning problems that arise with medical evidence. Fundholding general practitioners and consultants are increasingly asked to provide certificates of one sort or another, which we recognise can create practical problems for them. As a result of those increasing pressures, it appears that more of them have begun to charge for the provision of evidence. A report from one citizens advice bureau states:
"In the last six tribunals I have undertaken for patients of our local fundholding GP a charge of £15 per letter has been levied." In another case, a GP was requested to provide evidence to support a disability living allowance review. He replied with a 16-line letter giving a brief history of the client's condition and an attached note saying that the fee for the enclosed report was £50. Another rather brief report stated:
"This patient is suffering from backache."
It was accompanied by a bill for £22.
As I understand it, when the Employment Service seeks medical evidence it will meet the cost involved. However, when an individual claimant wishes to support a claim for restricting his or her availability for work, it is uncertain whether that person would have to pay the cost of producing the evidence in order to satisfy the Employment Service. I hope that the Government will undertake to pay such fees when the Employment Service insists on the provision of evidence.
There is an alternative approach which does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Department of Social Security or the Department of Employment, but is a matter for another Government Department. The terms and conditions of general practitioners could be altered to make provision of that service obligatory for GPs in discharging their ordinary duties. It is an urgent practical point which must be addressed.
The hon. Member for Withington referred to the difficulties that disabled people face in appealing against a decision to disallow disability benefit. They can either accept income support with a 20 per cent. cut or they can sign on to claim jobseeker's allowance. I endorse the hon. Gentleman's point that those measures should be unnecessary. If convincing evidence must be produced at an appeal, that should operate fairly effectively to discourage frivolous appeals. I am concerned that a single person would see his or her income reduced from £46.70 to £37.20 per week.
The hon. Gentleman also referred to the prejudice of sick and disabled people's national insurance credits. They face either those penalties or the rigours of actively
Column 365seeking work when they may be in genuine difficulty and when their appeal may be upheld and they may be accepted as being unfit for work.
In conclusion, let me revert to a point that I touched on earlier. We need to see the system and the needs of claimants as a continuum. I am worried that we shall end up with an all or nothing position in which people are judged absolutely as either sick or fit. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will be willing to reconsider another suggestion that the Disablement Income Group has consistently advanced and which has great merit--the case for a partial incapacity benefit. That would help to ensure that we have the necessary spectrum of provision.
At present, there is a real danger that people may fall into a gulf in which there is no protection. Some disabled people may be taken out of the benefits system altogether either because they fall into the gulf between incapacity benefit and the jobseeker's allowance or, because of earlier means testing under the jobseeker's allowance, for reasons that the House well understands, because they end up not receiving jobseeker's allowance.
Ms Liz Lynne (Rochdale): I also fear that disabled people will suffer under the new jobseeker's allowance. Other hon. Members have spoken about incapacity benefit, but that will be up and running when the jobseeker's allowance comes in. According to the Government's own figures, some 220,000 people will be debarred from invalidity and incapacity benefit and told that they are fit for work.
I am afraid also--and I should like some clarification from the Minister-- that people will not be able to get the jobseeker's allowance because they are not available for work, so they will fall between the two benefits of jobseeker's allowance and incapacity benefit. That is already happening with invalidity benefit and unemployment benefit. The citizens advice bureaux in particular have drawn attention to many cases in which people are debarred from getting invalidity benefit and cannot get any other benefit because they are not capable of work.
What does the Minister envisage that the Employment Service will do about the influx of people? Other hon. Members have raised that issue. I do not know whether the Employment Service will be able to cope with the 220,000 people in the Government's estimated figures. How will it cope with the fluctuating physical conditions or mild mental health problems of some of the people who will be applying for benefit?
At the moment, disability employment advisers deal mainly with people with severe disabilities and they are not used to dealing with people with mild mental health problems. A great deal more money will be required to train those advisers and many more advisers will be needed.
The Minister stated that £71 million will be made available for training staff dealing with the jobseeker's allowance. I should like more clarification on whether that money will be only for disability employment advisers or whether it will also include those who will be involved in the jobseeker's allowance. We need to know whether they will also receive specific training. Is the £71 million just for disabled people, or does it go further? We have not had much guidance from the Government on how that £71