Select Committee on Education and Employment First Special Report


Ninth First Report: Opportunities for Disabled

 People (HC 111-I)

Published: 24 November 1999
Government Reply: Second Special Report, Session

 1999-2000 (HC 214)

Published: 9 February 2000

Government Response

Further Government Action

To summarise:

(i) only half of disabled people with working age are economically active, compared with 85 per cent of non-disabled people;

(ii) those disabled people who are economically active are twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people, and more likely to be long-term unemployed;

(iii) the employment rate of disabled people is little over half that of non-disabled people;

(iv) over a million economically inactive disabled people would like to work;

(v) disabled people are much less likely to have educational qualifications than non-disabled people and, as a result, when in work are more likely to be employed in low-skilled occupations. Once in work, however, disabled people receive similar amounts of training to their non-disabled counterparts.

The Government welcomes the report and the thorough investigation the Committee has carried out into this issue which is at the heart of the Government's civil rights agenda.

It welcomes the recognition of the steps it has already taken to improve opportunities for disabled people, especially the establishment of the Disability Rights Commission.

We are aware that there is still work to be done to overcome the discrimination that disabled people face in employment, to improve opportunities for disabled people in education and to continue our reform of the benefit system.

The Government published on 13 December 1999 the final report of the Disability Rights Task Force "From Exclusion to Inclusion" and the Committee's work will add to the debate on how best to move the civil rights agenda forward.

We have also announced our intention to introduce legislation to tackle discrimination against disabled people in schools, colleges and universities.

2. It is clear that discrimination on the part of employers contributes to the disadvantage experienced by disabled people in the labour market. One of the key measures of success proposed in the Welfare Reform Green Paper was a reduction in discrimination against disabled people. We believe that there is still a long way to go before this target is met, particularly in the field of employment.

The Government agrees that discrimination against disabled people persists. We are tackling discrimination in the following ways:

· from April 2000 the Disability Rights Commission will work towards the elimination of discrimination against disabled people, and will promote equal opportunities for disabled people;

· the Government launched the "See the Person" campaign in June 1999.

This will raise awareness about disability and the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) amongst employers, service providers and disabled people. The campaign includes TV and radio advertisements, posters, articles, seminars and the publication of new booklets which are being distributed through the DDA Helpline;· proposed legislation on disability discrimination in education and training; and

· will respond to the final report of the Disability Rights Task Force.

We are monitoring the implementation of the DDA. Further research is now underway on cases brought under the Act. Also see para 6.

The DRC opened for business on 25 April 2000.

Market research has been carried out on the "See the Person" campaign. Overall respondents to the research found it easy to understand, informative, provocative and relevant. Most also liked the campaign.

On the exclusion of Education and Training from the DDA we intend to put proposals to Parliament to remedy this serious flaw as soon as there is parliamentary time.

The Government's final response to the DRTF's recommendations is expected by the turn of the year.

3. We recommend that the Employment Service make efforts to improve its links with employers who do not traditionally employ disabled people, and to ensure that those who advise and support disabled people in their search for work have appropriate experience, training and accreditation to enhance their credibility with employers. We believe that performance targets for the ES's services to disabled people should focus not only on placements but should include measures of employer satisfaction with the quality of the services received, including services which help employers retain as well as recruit disabled people.

The Government agrees that better links with employers is essential to improve job opportunities for disabled people. The Employment Service's (ES) priorities for this year include its new marketing strategy "Marketing Means Business", and a new service commitment to employers. These will make the service received by employers from the whole ES more focused on their needs. Encouraging staff from Jobcentre Services and Disability Services to work together when marketing services to employers will bring greater coherence and consistency to the way relationships are built.

Disability Employment Advisers (DEAs) receive generic training in working with employers. In addition, they have skills training in business partnerships which focuses on disability specific client advocacy and consultancy with employers. All DEAs have job specific standards to achieve, one unit of which is assisting employers to recruit, retain and develop disabled people. In addition DEAs must work towards S/NVQ Guidance Level 3.

Training for DEAs is currently under review. We have already decided to introduce a modular approach. One module will cover working with employers and promoting disabled people to them.

Pilot partnership arrangements between Abbey National and the ES Disability Service aim to improve the Disability Service's appreciation of employers' needs and expectations.

Future ES surveys of employers will include their views on the Disability Service. However a separate Disability Service survey would impose unnecessary burdens on employers.

Disability Employment Advisers (DEAs) receive employer focused training through a Building Business Partnerships module. This module focuses on the development of skills required to enable advisers build and maintain effective business partnerships, both internally and externally.

The pilot between Abbey National and the ES Disability Service is now complete. Both organisations have gained clear benefits from the pilot and are working together to develop a model to be used more widely for future arrangements.

4. The business case for recruiting and retaining disabled people is a strong one, and we urge the Government to give greater emphasis to the business arguments in its campaigning, and to make greater use of examples of good practice and business-to-business communication.

In October 1999 we published a new booklet "Employing Disabled People: a good practice guide for Managers and Employers" Amongst its useful advice, this guide summarises the business case. It contains good practice examples from case study research supporting the business arguments for employing people with disabilities. It is being distributed through the DDA Helpline, Federation of Small Businesses, and Institute of Personnel and Development. Officials are currently discussing the promotion of the Guide with other employer organisations, as part of the process of developing the "See the Person" campaign.

The "Actions speak louder than words" campaign, which the DRC will be launching in December, looks to opinion formers in society to influence and lead change. The DRC is working closely with business to provide early examples of organizations commitment to change in the business world and elsewhere to act as a catalyst for positive change in the wider community.

DRC officials have been meeting with representatives of a range of employers' organizations, including the CBI, the FSB, the IoD and Chambers of Commerce, and have continued to promote the business case through them. The DRC has recently commissioned a research project which is looking at the experiences of small employers in recruiting and employing disabled people. The results of this research will be used to inform the Commission's recommendations to the Government on possible future changes to the DDA, and on possible changes to the current exemption of organizations with fewer than 15 employees from the employment provisions of the Act. It will also be used to inform the DRC and the Government's future plans for communicating effective messages to business about the employment of disabled people.

5. We recommend that the requirement to publish, in their Annual Report, information about their policies regarding disabled people, be extended to all those companies which are required to produce an Annual Report, irrespective of their number of employees.

The Department of Trade and Industry is leading a review of company law, including reporting and disclosure requirements. They plan to publish a consultation document in February 2000. We will ensure the Select Committee's recommendations are taken into account in this process. The final report will be published in conjunction with a White Paper in March 2001, with legislation envisaged in the next Parliament.

No further update at present

6. However, it is clear that there are problems with the operation of the Act, and the Government recognises this.

The Government is making progress in the implementation of civil rights for disabled people by:

· building on the Disability Rights Task Force's (DRTF) first report, and passing The Disability Rights Commission Act which received Royal Assent in the summer of 1999. The Commission opens for business in April 2000;

· implementing the later Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) Part III rights of access in two stages. The first stage was implemented in October 1999, and the final stage is planned for 2004; and

· considering our response to the DRTF's final Report published in December 1999. Some of their recommendations reflect concerns expressed by the Select Committee about the operation of the DDA. including the definition of disability. In the meantime, we have already announced that we will tackle one serious omission, the exclusion of education from disability discrimination legislation. We intend to put proposals to Parliament to remedy this serious flaw during this session of Parliament.

Concern was expressed by the Committee that legal aid is not available to disabled people to take a case to an employment tribunal. The Committee may already be aware that parties and witnesses appearing before employment tribunals can claim various expenses and other allowances to help cover a number of costs and where appropriate they can also claim:

· the cost of a helper to accompany them to the hearing;

· the cost of specialist interpreters; and

· the cost of necessary medical reports and fees for medical professionals to attend the hearing.

The Commission opened in April 2000.

Responses to a consultative exercise on a revised draft Code of Practice, proposals for regulation and a practical guide for smaller service providers explaining these further duties are currently being considered.

The Government's final response to the Disability Rights Task Force's recommendations is expected by February.

On the exclusion of education from the DDA, we will introduce the SEN and Disability Bill early in the next Parliamentary session.

7. We welcome the establishment of the Disability Rights Commission, which we believe is an essential step towards ensuring that disabled people are able to exercise their rights under the DDA.

We appreciate the Committee's welcome of the setting up of the Disability Rights Commission (DRC), and that witnesses before the Committee were also universally in favour.

In response to the comments made by the Institute of Directors and the Confederation of British Industry, the DRC operation will be open and transparent and will keep red tape to a minimum. The DRC will be as much concerned with education and conciliation as enforcement.

No further update at present

8. Whatever the practical considerations, it is difficult to justify, in principle, a situation in which someone's statutory protection from discrimination is dependent on the number of people whom their employer employs.

9. We support the Government's objective of removing the small employer threshold for compliance with the DDA. We recommend that the removal of the threshold should be phased so as to allow small employers time to understand their new responsibilities, obtain appropriate advice and take the necessary action in advance of the deadline.

 The most effective way to tackle discrimination is for legislation to go hand-in-hand with a change in attitude and awareness. When the threshold was reviewed in 1998, a lack of knowledge and understanding of the Act and its requirements amongst small employers was revealed. We have taken the following action:

· amended the DDA through the Disability Rights Commission Act 1999 to ensure that once the Commission is established, we will consult it about the question of changes to the threshold, along with employer and disability organisations; and

· we have improved awareness of disability issues and the requirements of the DDA amongst smaller businesses. The DDA Helpline was upgraded early last year to provide advice as well as information about the Act. The "See the Person" campaign, started in June last year, is a continuation of the process. As part of this campaign, the DfEE published an employers' good practice guide in October, which is being promoted through employers' organisations such as the Federation for Small Businesses.

The Government is aware that the Disability Rights Commission is looking at the level of the threshold and it looks forward to receiving their views in due course.

The Article 13 Employment Directive does not allow for small employers to be exempt. The disability provisions of the directive do not have to be implemented for up to 6 years but the Government has not taken a decision on when to implement it in Great Britain.

"What have you got to offer?" was launched as a part of the wider national disability awareness campaign in October 2000. A combination of poster and press advertisement, it illustrates the business benefits of disability access by encouraging smaller employers to make reasonable adjustments giving disabled customers full access to all their services.

10. We recommend that the Government consider, once it has been brought fully into force in respect of the providers of goods and services, extending the provisions of Part III of the DDA to cover the provision of education and training.

On the publication of the final report of the Disability Rights Task Force to Government on civil rights for disabled people, we announced the introduction, in this Parliamentary session, of legislation to include education.

We intend to introduce new civil rights for disabled children and adults in school, further, higher and Local Education Authority secured adult education. We will provide rights against unfair discrimination and require providers to improve access for disabled people. This is a significant step forward in our commitment to comprehensive civil rights for disabled people. It will ensure they have the choices and opportunities which others have for so long taken for granted.

Training as a service to members of the public is covered by Disability Discrimination Act Part III at the moment (for example training provided on behalf of the Secretary of State under the Employment and Training Act 1973) and this will continue to be the case. Training provided by or on behalf of employees is already covered by Part 11 of the DDA.

The Government's final response to the Disability Rights Task Force's recommendations is expected by the turn of the year.

We intend to introduce the SEN and Disability Bill early in the next Parliamentary session. This will give new rights for disabled children and adults in schools, further, higher and Local Education Authority secured adult education and youth service provision. The Bill will prevent unfair discrimination and require providers to improve access for disabled people.

11. We believe that it is important for funding criteria to be developed in consultation with disabled people and their organisations and that disabled students should themselves be involved in the monitoring of what is achieved.

 The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) plans to introduce a disability premium into its mainstream teaching funding method from 2000-01. The premium recognises that institutions incur additional costs in recruiting and supporting students with disabilities. The introduction of this premium, to be based on the size of the disabled student population at each institution, has been the subject of consultation with both Higher Education and Further Education institutions and other interested parties, such as disability groups. The HEFCE will closely monitor the recruitment of students with disabilities annually to determine the impact of premium funding on student numbers.

We will ask Institutions to provide details of their disability activity as part of their widening participation strategies which will be assessed by the Council's Equal Opportunities, Access and Lifelong Learning (EQUALL) committee.

In considering increases to the amounts paid directly to students with disabilities through the three Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs), the Department takes account of evidence from the operation of the DSAs as well as the views of Local Education Authorities and disability interest groups.

The rates for the three DSAs are given below:



personal helper  £10,250

Major items of

specialist equipment  £4,055

Other expenditure  £1,350



personal helper  £10,505

Major items of

specialist equipment  £4,155

Other expenditure  £1,385

A disability premium of £7m has been introduced into its mainstream funding method for teachers in 2000/01 and will be available on a recurrent basis.

During 1999/00 and 2000/01 HEFCE is funding a £2m (per annum) special programme aimed at widening participation of students with disabilities.

12. We welcome the increase in the Disabled Student's Allowance and we recommend that the Government consider extending the Allowance to postgraduate students, those studying part-time and those undertaking work experience placements as part of a course of study. We also recommend that the Government examine ways of simplifying the application process.

The Government recently announced that the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) is to be extended to part-time students from September 2000. Many postgraduate students will have benefited from DSAs while they were undergraduates and may still be in possession of any specialist equipment paid for through the DSAs. We have no plans to extend DSAs to postgraduates and those students on work experience placements. However, some limited funding is available for postgraduates through studentships under the banner of the DTI Research Councils.

DSAs cover the additional costs students incur in respect of their attendance on a course because of their disability. Substantial sums, up to £10,250 a year for non-medical personal helpers, and up to £4,055 for specialist equipment are available through DSAs. Local Education Authorities, who administer the allowances, are under a duty to ensure that monies paid out will be used for their designated purposes. The application process is designed to establish firstly, that the student has a disability, and secondly, the course-related needs that arise from the disability. Once the need has been established, the Local Education Authority can pay the allowance. The system has been simplified and has no means test or age limit.

We are concerned that DSAs are paid as quickly as possible so that students receive the additional help they need to successfully complete their course. Guidance issued by the Department emphasises this.

DSAs for both part-time and postgraduate students were introduced this September. Part-time students are eligible for allowances related to the full-time undergraduate scheme, while postgraduate students are eligible for an allowance of up to £5,000 a year for additional costs they incur because of their disability. From February 2001, students at the Open University will also be eligible for DSAs.

13. We welcome the aims of the White Paper and proposed role for the new Learning and Skills Council in addressing the needs of disabled people in post-compulsory education.

We appreciate the Committee's welcome for the Government's plans for the new Learning and Skills Council (LSC).

The LSC will be able to fund a broader range of provision for disabled people. The LSC Prospectus, published on 14 December reinforces the importance placed on meeting the needs of disabled learners.

Students with disabilities must be supported to ensure that they can achieve their full potential. The LSC will promote equality of opportunity with providers and employers to ensure that the type and content of learning opportunities meet the needs of different groups. We recognise the importance of high quality providers of education and training who specialise in meeting the needs of disadvantaged groups, including disabled people. In addition, we will ensure that the LSC's funding framework is designed to deal effectively with the needs of all learners.

The Learning and Skills Act, which provides for the establishment of the New Learning and Skills Council, received Royal Assent on 28th July 2000. The Act requires the LSC to have regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity for all learners, including people with disabilities, and to ensure that this disadvantaged group of learners have access to suitable provision which meets their needs and, where appropriate, to the support they need to undertake it. This will include securing the provision of boarding accommodation where facilities provided would otherwise not be proper or reasonable.

The LSC's funding framework is still being developed, but will be designed to deal effectively with the needs of all learners, including those with learning difficulties and/or disabilities.

14. We believe that it is vital for standards to be monitored across the further education sector. Monitoring should include measurements concerning the widening of opportunities for disabled students. We hope that both OFSTED and the new independent Inspectorate for adult learning and work-based training will include such standards in their work.

The new post-16 quality assurance arrangements will use a Common Inspection Framework and will include equality and personal support principles. It will link to the monitoring of access and quality of provision for disabled students.

The drive for more consistent and higher quality will be central to the new arrangements. We want all providers to demonstrate high and rising levels of retention, completion and achievement, and a responsiveness to the diverse needs of learners. We will be working with a range of partners, including the Further Education Funding Council, TECs and providers, to produce new performance indicators, which will provide a basis for judgement about quality that can be used by providers for self assessment.

OFSTED and the new Adult Learning Inspectorate will support the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), and will develop a common framework for inspection which will be comparable with the LSC's quality improvement strategy, and will reflect the diversity of post 16 learners and cover equal opportunities.

The draft Common Inspection Framework on which the Inspectorates are consulting makes clear that all inspections will focus on the experiences of individual learners, and will evaluate the extent to which provision is educationally and socially inclusive and promotes equality of access to education and training. This includes provision for learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities.

The Common Inspection Framework was sent out for a full formal consultation 6 October 2000. The closing date for consultation is early January 2001.

Exactly how the framework will be implemented will be the subject of a more detailed handbook which the inspectorates are working on in parallel with developing the framework.

15. We hope that the FE Standards Fund will include funding targeted at improving access for disabled students, and that the widening of opportunities for disabled students will be one criterion by which Colleges are judged to be Beacon colleges.

Colleges can call on the Further Education Standards Fund to improve teaching and learning for students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. The fund is not generally available to improve physical access for disabled students because it is not a capital fund.

We are considering whether a review of the criteria for Beacon Colleges should be commissioned.

We will be reviewing the criteria for Beacon Colleges in the Autumn. The review will consider the committees recommendation alongside other priorities for funding.

16. The Committee believes that it is vital that disabled people and their organisations are properly represented on these Boards and the national Learning and Skills Council.

We are committed to diversity in all public appointments, that includes disabled people. Appointment on merit will therefore apply in all Learning and Skills Council (LSC) appointments. Board appointments to the National and the Local Councils will be made in line with Nolan principles following open and national advertisements.

We will expect the LSC to build into all its policies, programmes and actions equality of opportunity, working closely with the Equal Opportunities Commission.

We have actively encouraged applications for national and local positions from people with disabilities and have worked closely with the DRC (from April 2000) to achieve this. The measures taken include advertising all vacancies in the specialist press for people with disabilities and running workshops to encourage applications from them and from other groups that are under-represented in public bodies.

Section 14 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000 requires the LSC to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity between people with a disability and people without. The LSC must report annually to the Secretary of State on what arrangements it has made during the year, how effective they were and plans for the following year.

17. It is important that the impetus to improve the quality of teaching of basic skills is not lost in the context of the proposed changes laid out in Learning to Succeed.

Specific action planned to improve the quality of basic skills teaching includes:

· the introduction of intensive training for all existing basic skills teachers so that they receive three days training by summer 2001;

· the development of a new initial teacher training framework and qualifications for new entrants to basic skills teaching by the Further Education National Training Organisation and the Basic Skills Agency; and

· the development of standards in basic skills teaching to underpin the training of all further education teachers.

Raising the quality of teaching and training for all learners is fundamental to the aims of Learning to Succeed. As part of its quality improvement strategy, the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) will be expected to ensure that all education and training provision which it purchases is of good quality, continuously improving, and offers effective teaching and training by appropriately qualified staff who have continuing development opportunities.

All provision purchased by the LSC will be subject to independent inspection to look at the quality and the effectiveness of the teaching and training provided. The Government is developing a range of qualifications for post-16 teaching and will be consulting on these.

Draft training modules have been piloted and agreed. Support materials have been developed and consulted upon. 330 trainers will be trained October-December 2000, and the training will be rolled out to around 4,500 teachers by June 2001.

Draft framework standards have been developed by FENTO and BSA and are out for consultation and piloting. The standards and associated qualifications framework are scheduled to be published in June 2001.

FENTO are including elements relating to basic literacy, numeracy and students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities and those who do not speak English as their first language as an integral part of the 'generic' standards for all FE teacher training.

18. We recommend that the Government examine ways in which the availability of self-advocacy courses might be improved.

The development of life skills is an important part of provision in further education for those with learning difficulties. The introduction of the Learning and Skills Council will increase flexibility for funding provision.

In developing a national strategy on adult basic skills, a working group is looking at the specific needs of adults with learning difficulties and or disabilities who have basic skills needs. The working group has a wide range of members, including a number of representatives from organisations for and of people with learning difficulties. It will advise on how best to meet the needs of this particular section of learners.

A working group was set-up to look at the specific needs of adults with learning difficulties and/or disabilities.

A report "Freedom to Learn" basic skills for learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities has been published and to which the Government responded.

The department has contracted with FEDA / NIACE to develop:

· a pre entry curriculum;

· curriculum support documents;

· guidance and models of good


· teaching and learning materials; and

· capacity and increase opportunity for learning for this group.

19. We recommend that the Government undertake an audit of good practice, with an analysis of what makes it possible and what changes are required to create more opportunities for people with learning difficulties to undertake vocational education.

The Department of Health is leading a cross-Department initiative to produce a Strategy for People with Learning Difficulties, which it hopes to publish towards the end of this year. One strand will cover supporting independence, which includes how best to help people with learning difficulties into education and employment.

The Government will consider the Committee's recommendation in the development of this strategy.

No further update at present

20. The Further and Higher Education Act1992 provides that, if proper provision can be made for a student in a sector college, then funding should not be directed to a specialist placement. The Committee supports this principle. However, while recognising that the aim is for disabled people to be able to access mainstream further education with support tailored to their individual needs, in the interim some individuals may be better served by specialist colleges. It is important that decisions about funding of placements are based in all cases on the individual's needs and circumstances.

The Further and Higher Education Act 1992 requires the Further Education Funding Council (FEFC) to fund alternative provision where mainstream provision is not adequate and where it is in the best interest of the individual to do so. The FEFC strives to meet the needs of disabled students. If a student wishes to attend a specialist college the case is individually assessed. If the student/guardian is not happy with the outcome an appeal can be made. The FEFC is currently looking at how to make the appeals process easier. Every effort is made to ensure that individual students are able to attend college where they will be happiest and safest.

There are around 2000 students currently funded to attend courses in specialist colleges. Sector colleges can claim extra funding for students needing more support and claims increased by 12 per cent in 97/98, demonstrating how the sector is adapting to offer the best service to all students. We have made considerable progress in taking forward the recommendations of the Tomlinson report 'Inclusive Learning'.

The new Learning and Skills Council, which becomes operational in April 2001, will build on this good practice.

The Further Education Funding Council (FEFC) is currently seeking views on arrangements for residential specialist college placements for 2001/2, to reflect Ministers wishes that this process be simplified.

With the creation of the Connexions service it is intended that young people with complex learning difficulties and/or disabilities will have a personal adviser to discuss their individual needs with them.

Consultation is currently taking place with regard to the detailed funding arrangements for the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) including those for students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities.

The proposed "SEN and Disability Rights in Education Bill" will introduce duties to further improve the experience that students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities have of post-16 learning.

A consultation exercise on the proposed new duties concluded earlier this summer. A report on this consultation exercise has now been issued and work has begun on preparing the bill which will be introduced in the next (4th) parliamentary session.

The Bill places new duties on further education institutions, and LEAs in respect of adult education and youth services provision secured by them (in Scotland LAs in respect of Community Education secured by them). These new duties are:

· Not to treat disabled students less favorably, without justification, than students without disabilities, and

· To make reasonable adjustments to enable disabled students to have full access to further, higher and LEA/LA secured education.

21. We believe that ensuring that young people with complex and multiple impairments and learning difficulties have access to further education opportunities post-19 will be one of the biggest challenges for the new Learning and Skills Councils.

The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) will have wider powers to provide funding throughout Further, Adult and Community education where it feels it is in the best interest of the individual student. They will therefore build on the work undertaken by the Further Education Funding Council, providing support for those with complex and multiple learning difficulties.

The Government's aim is to build a new culture of lifelong learning which cuts across all sections of the community, and to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to develop their potential, from the most disadvantaged groups through to the most able. The LSC will have the right resources, levers and policy instruments to ensure that it is able to achieve this. It will work with partners at national and local level to assess learning needs and to create a range of learning opportunities accessible to everyone, particularly the disadvantaged.

The broad remit of the Learning and Skills Council will enable it to fund a wide range of provision to suit the particular needs of people with more complex or specialized learning needs, including securing boarding accommodation where facilities would not otherwise be proper or reasonable.

22. We welcome the Government's proposals to abolish the distinction between Schedule 2 and non-Schedule 2 courses. We recommend that the Government re-examine the provisions of the Further and Higher Education Act with a view to increasing the number and variety of courses available to those with profound or multiple disabilities.

The recent White Paper, Learning to Succeed, plans major reform of the arrangements for planning and funding learning opportunities for adults, including funding courses whether or not they lead to qualifications. We must aim for a balance which attracts both those who want, or need, to gain qualifications and those who want, or need, access to learning for other reasons. This may include the experience and enrichment it gives them individually and society as a whole. This might be particularly appropriate for students with profound or multiple disabilities.

This approach will be necessary if we are to achieve one of our key objectives, a commitment to lifelong learning in everyone. The national responsibility for arranging post-16 further, adult and community learning and work based training will lie with the Learning and Skills Council (LSC). We will ensure that its planning and funding arrangements helps students with profound or multiple disabilities, thus allowing them to achieve their full potential.

There are 40 non-schedule 2 pilots being run by the Further Education and Funding Council (FEFC) during 1999/2000. These include courses for those with profound and multiple learning difficulties. The FEFC will monitor these projects and they will help to inform the LSC's work in this area.

With the creation of the LSC in April 2000 and the abolition of Schedule 2, we have provided the flexibility to fund a broader range of learning opportunities for adults with profound and multiple learning difficulties.

Planning and funding mechanisms whereby LSC will put into practice the policy imperatives of Learning to Succeed are still under discussion. DfEE has established a small group of external experts to advise on LSC arrangements for adult and community learning.

23. It would be helpful if colleges received clear messages from the funding councils about what are the minimum standards expected in disability statements, examples of good practice and advice on how to do better. We therefore recommend that the effectiveness of disability statements should be one of the standards applied when colleges are inspected.

The Further Education Funding Council has commissioned an evaluation on the effectiveness of disability statements. We will publish a good practice guide in the Spring of 2000.

The Further Education Development Agency (FEDA) have produced a report evaluating the effectiveness of disability statements for the Further Education Funding Council (FEFC). They are currently considering the report, to enable them to advise the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) on how to take this forward.

24. Statistics are required on type of impairment, retention levels, levels and types of support provided, as well as the more obvious statistics concerning entry onto courses and qualifications achieved.

Following a pilot scheme with 4 colleges in 1998/99, the Further Education and Funding Council (FEFC) intend to collect detailed information on learning difficulties /disabilities for the 200/01 Individual Student Record exercise. This will make it possible to separately identify students by their type of learning difficulty or disability and whether they fall into both categories.

We are seeking advice from the FEFC on the feasibility of the collection of information on the type or level of support via the Individual Student Record in 2000/01. This might include collection of the following data on whether a student is supported by:

· a care assistant;

· special equipment;

· transport (e.g. between college

buildings); or

· a signer for Deaf students.

As part of the 2000/2001 Individual Student Record Exercise (ISR), the Further Education and Funding Council (FEFC) are now collecting information on disability and learning difficulties which will allow the extent and the effect of these to be monitored separately.

The 2000/2001 ISR also collects more detailed information on the type and severity of disability and/or learning difficulty.

25. A national information strategy is needed to enable disabled adults to gain access to information, advice and guidance about both courses and support available. Those devising and implementing this strategy must consult with and involve disabled people themselves.

The development of a new strategy for the provision of a local Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) service for adults began in April 1999. We have made £7 million available in the current financial year for this purpose. This will ensure that all adults have access to high quality information, advice and guidance services to help them make informed and better decisions about learning and work.

The initial emphasis is on the development of a basic information and advice service that is free. We have asked Lifelong Learning Partnerships, who are responsible for developing services under contract, to give priority in their plans to meeting the needs of socially disadvantaged and disabled people. We will ensure that disabled people are consulted about, and involved in next year's specification for local IAG services.

As part of the £54m, a further £19m was made available for 2000/2001 to ensure the provision of coordinated local networks of high quality information, advice and guidance (IAG) on opportunities in learning and work. DfEE consulted all local IAG partnerships, including a wide range of local organisations specialising in the needs of disabled people, in developing the specification for IAG partnership business plans for 2000/2001, and the forthcoming specification for 2001/02.In developing their plans, IAG partnerships were required to conduct an audit of IAG services within their area focusing particularly on access for disabled people. Together with an analysis of the needs of disabled people in their area, this was used to identify gaps in IAG services to disabled people and to prioritise the areas for enhanced or additional IAG service delivery.

A key finding of the evaluation of local adult information, advice and guidance services, was that the IAG programme had helped to stimulate activity focused on the needs of disadvantaged groups, including people with disabilities.

IAG partner organisations are required to be accredited against nationally approved quality standards by March 2002.

26. We therefore recommend that the Government ensure that sufficient funds are available for those institutions of further and higher education which need to do so to make the necessary adjustments to their premises to improve access for disabled students by 2004.

We will introduce legislation in this parliamentary session to address the Disability Rights Task Force's recommendations on education. We will consult on the details of this legislation. Access to and within education facilities will be a key consideration as the legislation is developed.

A consultation exercise on the content of the proposed "SEN and Disability Rights in Education Bill" concluded earlier this summer.

We announced on 6 November that £172m would be made available between 2002 and 2004 to improve access in further and higher education and LEA secured adult education and youth service provision.

27. We recommend that funding be made available, perhaps through the Access to Work Scheme, to provide support for disabled students undertaking work placements.

Section 13 of the Learning and Skills Act places a duty on the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) that means where it chooses to secure work experience, it must have regard to the needs of those young people with learning difficulties.

Funding will be made available directly from the LSC, not the Access to Work programme.

28. We recommend that the Government consider establishing regional resource centres to co-ordinate the provision of scarce or expensive equipment for disabled students.

The establishment of the Learning and Skills Council provides an opportunity to look afresh at the support available to disabled students. Long term coherent arrangements are needed to remove barriers that currently inhibit the full participation of disabled people in society and which facilitate people's progress from learning to work.

An interdepartmental working group has recently been set up to consider this issue. The recommendations of this group will inform policy for the Learning and Skills Council (LSC).

29. We recommend that the Government establish a national training programme to increase the supply of British Sign Language interpreters and communication support workers.

We are in discussion with the Royal National Institute for the Deaf, Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People and the Further Education Funding Council to discuss how best to increase the number of qualified interpreters and communicators.

The contract between DfEE and the Council for Advancement of Communication with Deaf People took effect from 1st June 2000. The contract with RNID has also been signed and took effect from 28 September 2000.

30. We recommend that the principle whereby help with travel to work costs is provided under the Access to Work Scheme be extended to cover the cost of travel to an educational establishment, although we recognise that it may be better to deliver this support through the existing mechanisms for student support rather than the Access to Work Scheme. It is important that assistance should be available to disabled students of all ages.

We accept that more needs to be done to avoid situations where the amount of support on offer is determined by location rather than need. As set out in the Social Exclusion Unit Report Bridging the Gap, the DfEE intends to test out innovative approaches to providing additional help with transport costs. This will include a variant of Education Maintenance pilots focusing on transport, and the development of a Youth or Learning Card giving an entitlement to travel discounts. We expect to implement the pilots from September 2000.

The transport variant of the EMA pilots were implemented from September 2000 along with extensions to four existing pilots to cover vulnerable groups. One of these extension EMA pilots is specifically addressing the needs of young people with disabilities. The Connexions Card giving entitlement to travel discounts, currently under development, is expected to be implemented from September 2001.

31. We believe that the proposals for a new youth support service contained in the Social Exclusion Unit's Report present an opportunity to address many of the present problems in transitional provision for disabled young people.

32. We are pleased that the Social Exclusion Unit has identified disabled people as a group for whom appropriate careers guidance is especially important and we recommend that the Government ensure that there is adequate provision of specialist careers advice for disabled people under the auspices of the new youth support service.

33. We recommend that the new youth support service be given the freedom and resources to adopt an innovative approach to helping disabled people during their first few months of work through the provision of services such as job coaching and work trials.

34. We recommend that the Government extend the provisions of the new youth support service, in the case of disabled people, to the age of 25.

The new information, support and guidance service for young people will build on the current good practice in the Careers Service, Youth Service and a range of other statutory and voluntary services. The new service must provide young people with disabilities with the support they need to make effective transitions and to remain in learning. Care will be taken to complement Employment Service provision with the work of the Learning and Skills Council.

An announcement about the development of the service is expected early in the Spring. We will consider the Select Committee's recommendations in drawing up the detailed arrangements following that announcement.

The recently passed Learning and Skills Act includes provision for people with disabilities under the age of 25 to have formal assessment of needs and provision to meet those needs. The Connexions Services will be responsible for ensuring this happens for people under 19. However, Ministers have also agreed that the Connexions services should continue to support people with disabilities who are over 19 where this is essential to their transition to adult and working life—for example where their assessment is applicable to their circumstances beyond 19 such as completing a course.

35. We recommend that the Government examine the possibility of establishing a single source of access to equipment and support for disabled people in education, training and employment.

The establishment of the Learning and Skills Council provides an opportunity to look afresh at the support available to disabled students.

No further update at present

36. We recommend that the funding councils make available pump-priming funds to enable better access to adult, higher and further education for people with mental health difficulties.

In Further Education, the FEFC already makes available funding to provide additional support for disabled people. We are determined that the funding systems of the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) do not disadvantage any group of potential learners. Local LSCs will have broad funding powers which will enable a more flexible approach to meeting individual needs. In particular, budgets will be available to support the promotion of equality of opportunity projects and initiatives which meet the needs of people who have greatest difficulty in accessing learning opportunities. This will include people with mental health difficulties. Pump-priming initiative funding will be available for small scale local projects.

A consultation document on the funding arrangements of the LSC was published on 11 January 2000. We will take into account the views of the Committee.

We are determined that the funding systems of the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) do not disadvantage any group of potential learners, and the views of the committee have been taken into account in the development of the new funding system. Pump-priming initiative fund will be available for small scale local projects, including projects to help those who have the greatest difficulty in accessing learning opportunities. This will include people with mental health difficulties.

37. We welcome the increased budget for the Access to Work Scheme, but we believe that the next priorities for the Scheme should be to improve awareness of it and reduce delays in processing claims. We therefore recommend that the Government include in the Employment Service's Annual Performance Agreement targets relating to the administration of Access to Work, in particular for the time taken to process claims. We also recommend that the Employment Service examine ways of promoting the Scheme more actively.

The Employment Service (ES) has a Disability Operating Agreement setting out Key Standards for Access To Work (ATW). These include response times for informing the applicant of their eligibility and a measure of the time taken for first help to be received. The Employment Service is willing to publish the results of the Disability Operating Agreement.

During 2000/01 the ES will be developing ATW processes to improve the relevance of assessments and the speed of delivery.

Demand for Access to Work continues to increase and the budget has been fully spent in recent years, including an extra £4.33m in 1999-2000. Research shows that applications come from a variety of sources indicating there is wide knowledge of the programme. We do not consider it necessary, therefore, to promote the programme more actively. Should there be any evidence of under-use we will consider how best to ensure full take up.

However Disability Employment Advisers do promote ATW, along with all Jobcentre services, whenever they have contact with employers or clients. All Jobcentres have leaflets available about ATW and display posters.

The 1999-2000 budget was fully spent and we expect to fully spend the increased budget for 2000-2001. Therefore we do not consider that the programme needs active promotion at present. However, besides the promotional activities already described, detailed information on Access to Work and other DS programmes has been made available on the Internet.

We have taken a number of initiatives to improve delivery of Access to Work. We have contracted with an external consultant to conduct a Review of the administrative process to speed up decision making and delivery. To feed into this Review, we sought the views of a Focus Group of disabled people with experience of Access to Work. We also held a number of managers' workshops to provide information for the consultants. The consultants recently have made a preliminary response to Ministers.

We also engaged a research organisation to conduct a customer survey who in October provided us with customer satisfaction information.

38. The impact of the mainstream New Deals on disabled people should be fully evaluated, and we recommend that the DfEE and ES expand their monitoring and evaluation to include details of participants and non-participants with disabilities, including an exploration of the position of disabled people who leave the New Deal to transfer to other benefits.

Through a combination of New Deal management information, evaluation and quantitative surveys, the Employment Service is researching the experience of disabled people in Mainstream New Deals for example:

New Deal Evaluation Database. Management information tells us:

· the proportions of disabled people entering these New Deals—the proportions going into different Options; and

· labour market outcomes.

Quantitative surveys of individual participants. These surveys provide robust samples of people with health problems and disabilities and will provide information for disabled people on for example:

· experience of Gateway;

· referral on Gateway, including to Adviser to help with health problems and disabilities;

· usefulness of the Personal


· experience of Options; and

· job outcomes.

The surveys will provide information on employability, attitudes to work and training and the helpfulness of the New Deal programme. The surveys are in 2 parts—Stage 1 (after 6 months from entry to the programme) and a follow up survey after one year. The draft report of Stage 1 (ND18-24s) is expected at the end of January 2000 and the field work for the follow up survey will commence shortly.

A separate research programme undertaken by DSS and DfEE includes case studies and qualitative work with individuals.

The evaluation of New Deal for Young People (NDYP) includes a number of published reports based on quantitative research with individual participants. The report for stage 1 was published in March 2000, the report from stage 2 is due for publication in 2001.

A survey of Leavers to Unknown Destinations is being carried out using a nationally representative sample of NDYP leavers from April to October 1999. It will provide information on reasons for leaving the New Deal, including 'suffering from an illness or disability'. The survey also asks about current benefit status for the NDYP leaver and partner and whether they have had difficulty keeping a job due to health problems. This report is due for publication in January 2001.

New Deal for the Long Term Unemployed (ND25+) is looking at the impact of the programme on people with health problems and disabilities through monitoring information and both qualitative and quantitative surveys of clients.

The first stage of the qualitative work was published in January 2000. The second stage will be published in November 2000 and includes interviews with 64 individuals, 16 of whom had a physical impairment or long term health problems and 6 of whom had Mental health problems.

The first stage of the quantitative work with individuals was published in October 2000. Thirty two percent of respondents, of which there were 1539, had a health problem or disability. The second stage of this survey which is due to be published in May 2001 will focus on outcomes.

New Deal 50+ was launched nationally in April 2000 and will look at the impact of the programme on those with health problems and disabilities through monitoring information and both quantitative and qualitative survey of clients. The quantitative survey of clients is currently underway and will report in Spring 2001. The sample for the survey includes those on incapacity benefits and a substantial number of people aged over 50 who are not classified as disabled but have a series of health problems.

39. Given the plethora of pilot schemes and financial incentives, the Government will need clear and "joined-up" evaluation in order to make an informed judgement about what measures are effective in helping disabled people into sustainable employment in the long term. In particular, we recommend that the Government produce an analysis of the relative importance of financial incentives, support to employers, and individual case management.

We are committed to a full evaluation of the New Deal for Disabled People and we have in place a comprehensive and large-scale evaluation strategy. DfEE and DSS are jointly responsible for the NDDP, and have in place an evaluation strategy which is being managed by DSS on behalf of both Departments. The overall aims of the evaluation are to assess how well the NDDP helps people to find or remain in work, and to advise about what is effective in the programme and what is not. The preliminary reports of the evaluation of the Personal Adviser Service and Innovative Schemes were published on 17 December 1999. We will bring the findings from all the strands of the evaluation work together to inform further developments in services for disabled people.

The NDDP final evaluation report should be available in late Spring 2001. Together with the evaluation of innovative schemes, it will provide a major contribution to our knowledge of what works for disabled people in helping them into work and which will feed in to arrangements being developed for NDDP extension.

ES will continue to ensure that disabled clients in ONE pilot locations have access to specialist DEA services. ONE mainstream advisers already receive training and guidance to help them deal with disabled clients and refer to DEA specialist services. ES will supplement this guidance to help ONE advisers deal with clients with mental health problems.

40. We believe that it is essential for advisers to have disability equality training and an understanding of how an impairment can affect an individual's life and work opportunities. We commend the Government on having involved disability organisations in the delivery of some of its training programmes for advisers, and we urge both the DfEE and DSS to continue this process by ensuring that refresher awareness training is provided on a regular basis. We further recommend that the Government work with various interested parties to develop professional accredited training for advisers involved in assessing the employment potential of disabled people.

We recognise the need to raise the awareness of disability issues in the Employment Service (ES). They are currently developing a Disability Awareness Workbook in consultation with external organisations, (for example, people in Mental Health Policy, Health Services Directorate, NHS Executive). It will be made available to all ES personnel.

All Personal Advisers employed in the Employment Service are expected to pursue S/NVQ Guidance level 3. By March 2000 90 per cent of established New Deal Personal Advisers will have achieved that standard. Other ES staff working in an advisory capacity are actively encouraged to work towards S/NVQ Guidance level 3. By March 2000 the aim is that 40 per cent will be doing so.

In addition, we have developed job specific standards setting out minimum standards for Disability Employment Advisers (DEAs).

New Deal for Disabled People (NDDP) Personal Advisers in the ES led pilots have received thorough training—including the effects of disability on people's lives and their search for work. People with mental health problems have formed a high proportion of the client group and the training takes account of this. Each ES NDDP pilot has an Occupational Psychologist in its advisory team who acts as mentor to the advisers and builds up relationships with local health services, employers and voluntary organisations.

The Benefits Agency has also provided training for Personal Advisers in all 12 NDDP areas on the use of the Integrated Benefit Information System (IBIS),as well as overviews of Incapacity Benefit and Disability Working Allowance (now the Disabled Persons Tax Credit (DPTC)). The Benefits Agency continues to provide benefit advice and information to support the PA service, and has also brokered the delivery of DPTC training courses to Advisers by the Inland Revenue.

Other New Deal Personal Advisers see more job-ready Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) clients and refer disabled clients, who need specialist help, to DEAs by using guidance which helps them to refer effectively. In the ONE pilots, Personal Advisers have received training in advising disabled people but also have access to the support of DEAs, and through them the full range of specialist programmes for disabled people.

The Disability Awareness Open Learning Handbook is now available to all ES staff. It was extensively quality assured through approximately 30 external organisations including British Dyslexia Association, RNID, RNIB, and Mental Health organisations.

The ES works with an external partner, Equal Ability, to deliver training to newly recruited DEAs around disability equality issues and the barriers faced by disabled clients in the workplace.

The Employment National Training Organisation will be issuing a tender to carry out a gap analysis study of qualifications in the field of disability and employment.

41. We recommend that the Government examine the payment arrangements for organisations, especially those in the voluntary sector, operating innovative schemes as part of the New Deal for Disabled People to ensure that innovation is not constrained by cash flow.

The schemes are funded under contract and, for some, this represents a departure from their normal funding route of grants. In considering the future of the New Deal for Disabled People we will look at which are the most effective funding mechanisms and whether cash flow has any effect on innovation. The interim evaluation of Innovative Schemes shows that the funding has itself been responsible for bringing about innovation. It has allowed the realisation of an already developed idea, and has also encouraged new and innovative approaches to management and partnerships.

We have received Economic Affairs (Welfare to Work) approval for the national extension of the NDDP as from April 2001. Additionally, EA (WW) decided that all of the second tranche Innovative Schemes should be offered contract extensions up to March 2001 with no change to the funding arrangements. We are considering whether to recommend to Ministers that the schemes be offered further extensions up to July 2001 because of the delayed start to the national extension.

As part of the ongoing work to develop the extension of NDDP, the Government is evaluating the effectiveness of measures piloted under the Innovative Schemes, including looking at the lessons that might be learnt about how future arrangements should be funded.

42. Evaluation of both the process and the outcome of innovative schemes is important, and we are concerned that these schemes do not simply reinvent the wheel for lack of knowledge about other aspects of good practice. We therefore recommend that the Government commissions further research to obtain and update a comprehensive data base of good practice in the field of disability and employment.

We are committed to a full evaluation of the New Deal for Disabled People, and interim evaluation findings from the evaluations of both the pilot Personal Adviser Service and Innovative schemes were published on 17 December 1999. Work is continuing on both evaluation programmes, and we plan to publish the final findings later this year. In addition, both DSS and DfEE fund a substantial programme of research on disability issues; outputs from the Research and Evaluation Programme are widely disseminated to aid policy making and improve public debate. We are considering further research to complement evaluation of the Innovative Scheme Pilots.

The evaluation of both the New Deal for Disabled People (NDDP) Personal Advisory Service and Innovative Schemes will come to an end in Autumn 2000. A one day event to disseminate key messages from the early analysis of the Personal Adviser Service (PAS) pilots and Innovative Schemes (IS) evaluations was held on 6 September 2000. Officials from across the Departments responsible for taking forward the NDDP attended, allowing key messages from the pilots to be fed into the policy design for the national extension of NDDP in 2001. Publication of the final reports of the PAS and IS are scheduled for Spring/Summer 2001.

To complement learning from the evaluations of the NDDP pilots, DfEE and DSS have developed a Strategic Research Programme to fill knowledge gaps on disability and employment issues. This will focus on strategies for keeping people in work and off benefits, as well as exploring the key issues for helping disabled people into work.

Invitations for bids to carry out the first tranche of projects in the NDDP strategic research programme have either been or are about to be issued. Early findings from these projects should be available by Spring 2001.

43. We are concerned that disabled people should have equal access to the full range of assistance that can be offered through the range of New Deal programmes, as well as existing Employment Service support. The final design of the ONE Service needs to overcome the current anomalies, and we recommend that the Government consult representatives of employers, disabled people and other experts before deciding on the final variant of the scheme. In the meantime, we urge the Government to monitor closely participation in particular options and schemes by disabled people, in particular the extent to which the discretionary fund for the Full-time education and training option has been used for disabled participants.

Disabled clients in receipt of Jobseeker's Allowance have equal access to programmes. Clients receiving long-term incapacity benefits have access to services in the New Deal for Disabled People (NDDP) pilot locations.

We are developing ONE in consultation with employers and disabled people.

We monitor participation by disabled people in the various options under New Deal and collect data on the number of applications to the discretionary fund for the Full time Education and Training option.

IB clients are eligible for New Deal 50+ in pathfinder locations, which offers training support and cash credits to clients who find work. It will be rolled out by April 2000.

With the introduction of Work Focused Interviews for lone parents, eligibility for NDLP will be extended to lone parents who are incapacitated. The WFI will bring NDLP arrangements into closer alignment as ONE. So, from April 2001 all lone parents with a youngest child aged 5 five years plus in receipt of IS would (unless they have particularly difficult circumstances) attend a WFI, including those on incapacity benefits. From there disabled clients who wish to do so can join NDLP. As now, ES will continue to ensure that disabled lone parents get the specialist help they need through DEAs.

44. We believe that it will be important for any evaluation of Employment Service and Benefits Agency services for disabled people to be considered together and for the impact of the ONE Service on the New Deal for Disabled People (and vice versa) to be established before there is any national roll-out.

We recognise the importance of ensuring that services for disabled people are properly co-ordinated to deliver prompt and appropriate action.

We have announced no plans to roll out New Deal for Disabled People or ONE at this stage, and are continuing to evaluate them.

From summer 2001 services for disabled people currently delivered by the ES and the working parts of the BA will be brought together in the new Working Age Agency.

The ONE service is still being piloted and evaluated. The results of the evaluation are likely to be available by 2002. Following encouraging results from the New Deal for Disabled People (NDDP) Innovative Schemes and Personal Adviser Pilots, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in the March 2000 budget that after the consultation proposals for extending NDDP would be prepared. The Government's aim s to build on the best of the current pilot phase and to continue to explore and evaluate what works best. Plans are now at an advanced stage and it is intended to commence NDDP national extension in summer 2001.

45. We recognise that a productivity criterion may have some part to play in determining eligibility for supported employment, but we do not believe that the rigid application of an output measurement such as the one which has hitherto been used is always helpful. We recommend that any new eligibility criteria for access to supported employment should focus primarily on the level of support that an individual needs to carry out a job.

The Government welcomes the Select Committee's recommendation and will take this into account in considering the future development of eligibility mechanisms for the programme. As an essential audit requirement, ensuring that funds are properly targeted at those who most need them, Disability Employment Adviser assessment of eligibility must remain.

We are still analysing the responses to the programme consultation. However, there was considerable interest in this area of the consultation and we would expect to carry out further development work to identify practicable alternatives to complement or replace the present criteria.

In May Margaret Hodge announced the proposed changes to the programme which is intended to be in place by April 2001. This included the introduction of new eligibility criteria.

We intend to abolish the outdated focus on productivity.

We are currently developing the detail of these proposals and plan to provide a detailed programme design statement early in December. The new programme model will include a development plan process for individuals which identifies their activities, aspirations and support requirements.

46. We believe that a national strategy and funding mechanism for supported open employment initiatives is clearly needed.

The central funding issue is how we can best get value for money in terms of enabling more disabled people to enter Supported Employment, whilst improving progression to open employment. Following the Consultation Exercise, and building on lessons learned from the Supported Employment Development Initiative, we will consider what changes to the funding structure and contract requirements would best support an increased emphasis on individual development and progression. It is too early to predict precisely how funding arrangements might change and we will want to carry out further developments before making any final decisions.

Margaret Hodge's announcement in May proposing changes to the Supported Employment Programme included the introduction of a new funding system.

By the end of Autumn we will have a more detailed plan of the funding arrangements. These will focus on outputs but will also include a quarterly payment for support while the individual is in the programme.

47. It is clear that supported employment opportunities must provide a range of levels of support and subsidy if the maximum number of disabled people are to be offered employment opportunities.

We welcome the Select Committee's recommendation. Progression has always been an aim of the Supported Employment Programme and a desirable outcome for people who can work in open employment. However, we recognise Supported Employment needs to be an important long term option for some people, for example those with a deteriorating or fluctuating condition. Individuals must have scope to develop and progress at a rate that suits their abilities, and have flexibility to adjust plans for progression according to circumstances.

Proposals for the modernised programme take account of these concerns. Progression aims are modest and will be reviewed. There is flexibility for people to stay in supported employment longer term and to return to it after progress if necessary.

48. Early retirement should not be seen as an acceptable way to ease out older workers when they develop a health problem, nor as an alternative to employers making the reasonable adjustments to working arrangements or premises which they are required to by law. We recommend that the Government include, in its review of early retirement in the public sector, an evaluation of the ways in which the needs of employees with health problems might be met in the workplace, as an alternative to early retirement.

The Government wants to tackle the waste which arises when people's working lives are disrupted by illness or disability. We recognise the need to encourage employers to respond to employees' health problems in a way which allows those who are capable of continuing in work to do so, rather than opting for early retirement.

During 1999 Ministers examined how to improve the co-ordination of the good work already carried out by employment and health services, social services and the DSS Medical Services. DfEE, DSS and DoH hope to bring forward proposals this year which would enable creative partners to add value and to contribute to this work.

Initiatives will be focused on the 17,000 people who complete 6 weeks on Statutory Sick Pay every week and who at that stage are at risk of not working again. It will be important that work is done to change attitudes, and ensure that services work in tandem and are able to carry out the work involved.

We feel it inappropriate for those who receive an ill-health pension, by being found permanently incapable of teaching, to be able to return to teaching without giving up that pension. The policy of preventing the re-employment of teachers in receipt of an ill-health pension was introduced on 1 April 1997 and is supported by the current Government. The Department has recently made changes to its circular on Medical Fitness to Teach to ensure it complies with DDA requirements.

We are currently drafting Occupational Health Guidance directed at occupational health personnel involved in the assessment of fitness for teaching with the aim of achieving appropriate and consistent recommendations.

The Government notes the Committee's recommendation that any review of the public sector should include an evaluation of the ways in which the needs of employees with health problems might be met in the work place as an alternative to early retirement.

In July 2000, HM Treasury published its report entitled "Review of Ill-Health Retirement in the Public Sector", making 36 recommendations.

We have submitted an action plan to HM Treasury which outlines how it intends to implement the recommendations in the Treasury report. These include the use of redeployment and rehabilitation as alternatives to ill health retirement. The recommendations in the report and the action plan for taking them forward are consistent with the aim of making a positive impact on the health of teachers.

We are awaiting Ministerial approval of proposals to mount Job Retention Pilots. These are aimed at seeing what more can be done to help people at risk of losing their jobs, owing to prolonged illness at work or disability, staying in work.

We will publish the Occupational Health Guidance for training and employment of teachers in December.

49. We welcome the replacement of the All Work Test by the Personal Capability Assessment, in particular the shift in emphasis from incapacity to capability. However, it is likely to be more effective if it is accompanied by changes to the other rigid benefit rules to allow greater flexibility to try out employment options suggested by the PCA without risking loss of benefit.

We are pleased that the Committee welcomes the more positive approach of the Personal Capability Assessment. The new Assessment will help Personal Advisers give the right advice and support to their sick or disabled clients. It will not itself suggest employment options, but will provide the Personal Adviser with expert medical advice about people's work capabilities and restrictions. This will give a firm basis for their discussions with clients on how best to return to the labour market.

The changes to the assessment for Incapacity Benefit will require Medical Services doctors to enhance their skills in the principles of occupational health and disability awareness. Early trials of the new PCA approach have indicated that they can perform well in the enhanced role, providing potentially valuable information to the Personal Adviser and the client. We will carry out a detailed evaluation of the PCA over the next 12 months.

We have introduced a number of changes which make it easier for people to try out intermediate options and gain experience to improve their employability. We have removed the 16 hour limit on voluntary work—people on incapacity benefits can now do as much as they want. In April 1999 the therapeutic earnings limit was raised from £48.00 to £58.00 a week. We are currently evaluating the effectiveness of a number of pilot into-work measures for people on incapacity benefits such as work trials, jobfinders grants and jobmatch payments. We are actively considering what additional measures may be taken to build on success so far.

A full evaluation of PCA will be carried out before extending to ONE locations.

The therapeutic earnings limit was raised to £58.50 in April 2000 and to £59.50 in October.

50. The Committee recommends that the Department of Social Security examines options to reduce the potential benefit penalties for people trying out work, study, training or rehabilitation.

We recognise that the benefit system contains some disincentives for people who want to try to work, and we are committed to removing barriers where possible. People leaving Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance to work with the help of the Disabled Person's Tax Credit can, under current rules, return to their former benefit if they need to reclaim within 2 years. We have already introduced a number of new measures, such as the new 52 week linking rule for longer-term incapacity benefits, and the removal of the restriction on the amount of voluntary work people on those benefits can do. We are piloting a number of other benefit flexibilities, and are continuing to examine the scope for further measures to improve incentives for people to move towards work.

Under the current rules Incapacity Benefit is not affected when a person undertakes study unless they receive a Government training allowance or the activities indicate that they no longer satisfy the medical criteria for benefit. Where benefit is withdrawn because a Government training allowance is paid, a two year linking rule protects accrued benefit rates.

Between April 1999 and April 2000 we piloted a number of benefit flexibilities to improve incentives for people to move towards work. From April 2000, barriers in the benefit system that might prevent people with disabilities from taking part in approved work (work trials and work placement as part of a work preparation programme) were removed. From April 2001 a Job Grant of £100 will be available to people of working age who leave benefit and move into work expected to last at least five weeks.

51. The current system of therapeutic work can act as a disincentive to disabled people to try out work. We recommend that the DSS undertake a survey of requests for therapeutic work to ascertain the circumstances of those accepted or rejected. We further recommend that the Government consider reinstating the pre-1995 "good cause" provisions.

We are aware of concerns that the therapeutic work rules may be of limited use to people whose conditions are not capable of being improved. We are committed to removing barriers to work for people with disabilities who want to take steps back to work, and are looking at these rules, along with others. The evaluation programme for the New Deal for Disabled People will include the role currently played by therapeutic work.

No further update at present

52. We recommend that the Government set up new systems to allow information from the PCA which indicates the potential for therapeutic work to be flagged up in advance and automatically approved as an alternative to doctor's advice. Where therapeutic work is agreed with a claimant's personal adviser, this should also be approved automatically.

We believe that personal advisers can play an important role in offering help and advice on the opportunities available to sick and disabled people. During early trials of the Capability Report, doctors were asked to advise on the appropriateness of therapeutic work, but advisers did not find this part of the Capability Report particularly helpful. We recognise, however, that our developing welfare to work programme will open up opportunities to reform and simplify processes around therapeutic work, and agree that these should be explored.

No further update at present

53. We recommend that the Government consider tapering earnings over the £58 limit or introducing a "rolled-up" disregard over a longer period, say a quarter, to allow for fluctuating earnings.

We note the Committee's recommendations and will reflect on the level at which earnings affect benefit entitlement as we consider ways of providing more help and support for people who want to return to work.

(The £58 earnings limit in the therapeutic work rule acts to set a limit on the amount of work that may be undertaken without affecting entitlement to Incapacity Benefit. It performs a different function from the earnings disregards elsewhere in the benefits system).

The therapeutic earnings limit was raised from £58.50 to £59.50 from 2 October to take into account of the increase in the National Minimum Wage.

54. We recommend that the Government undertake an evaluation of the likely impact of adopting one of these options.

As above

No further update at present

55. The Committee recommends that the Department of Social Security and HM Treasury evaluate the role of the 16 hour rule, and its exceptions, for benefits and tax credit purposes.

The 16 hour rule applies across a range of benefits as a measure of what constitutes a significant amount of work. For example, the 16 hour rule for Income Support and Job Seekers Allowance reflects the fact that benefits are primarily for people who are not in work, and ties in with the minimum hours work qualification for in-work support such as Disabled Person's Tax Credit. As part of our welfare to work programme we are, however, continuing to examine all benefit rules with a view to improving incentives and removing barriers where possible.

No further update at present

56. The Committee recommends that the current review of the supported employment programme should include the impact of the benefits system on individual's work patterns, with a view to changing regulations where they may be a barrier to progression.

The review of the Supported Employment Programme is looking at the eligibility criteria, progression, delivery mechanisms and processes of the programme. It is therefore inappropriate to include the benefits regulations. However, as part of our welfare to work programme we are continuing to examine all benefit rules with a view to improving incentives and removing barriers where possible.

No further update at present

57. We recommend that the Inland Revenue undertake a detailed evaluation of the role of the DPTC, in particular to monitor the fast-track gateway and its impact on job retention.

We attach considerable importance to the evaluation of the Disabled Person's Tax Credit. The Inland Revenue will mount an evaluation programme over the period to 2002. This is expected to include use of administrative statistics, qualitative research, survey of employers and surveys of claimants and non-claimants. The programme will cover monitoring and research on the fast track gateway and its impact on job retention.

The tax credits were launched less than 12 months ago and, consequently, the evaluation programme is in its early days. Inland Revenue has begun publishing, on a quarterly basis, administrative statistics. These are integral to the evaluation programme. In addition, it has commissioned some qualitative research with tax credit recipients, focusing on the transition from DWA to DPTC and to the payrolling of the tax credits. Another more in-depth piece of qualitative research and a survey of DPTC recipients is planned for later this year/early 2001. A survey on non recipients is planned for 2002.

58. We recommend that the Government consider introducing an indefinite linking rule for young people credited in to IB under the welfare reform proposals, to ensure benefit security and to remove any incentives for this group to remain incapable of work when they would prefer to be in a job.

As now, the 52 week linking rule for those who enter work will apply to this group. For those who leave benefit and who qualify for Disabled Person's Tax Credit or start a work based training course the linking period may be extended to 2 years.

In addition, we have announced our intention to introduce a provision which will enable those who leave IB (paid under the new rules) to take up employment, and who earn below the Lower Earnings Limit (LEL) for a lengthy period, to reclaim benefit at any time after the age cut-off even though they would fall outside of the normal linking rules.

These provisions are specifically designed to provide benefit security and reassurance to people disabled early in life who wish to try work or training. If a person starts work they will still have access to IB under the current linking rules. If they pay National Insurance contributions they will be able to claim IB on a contributory basis. However, if they work and earn below the LEL they will still be able to re-claim IB but under the new rules, despite the fact that the claim may be made after the age cut-off.

No further update at present

59. We recommend that the Government establish a cross-departmental working party, to include external organisations and experts, to examine a range of options within the tax and benefits system that might ease the "personal assistance trap".

The Inter-Departmental Review of Funding for Supported Accommodation was set up in 1996, and charged with finding sustainable, long-term funding arrangements for support services for vulnerable people. From April 2003 funding streams for support services will be integrated into a single "Supporting People" budget, to be administered by local authorities.

This will consider pooling funding streams for support services (e.g. the support element of Housing Benefit, Supported Housing Management Grant, Probation Accommodation Grant, and Home Improvement Agency Grants) into a single budget. The new single budget will enable local authorities to plan and fund support services to sustain vulnerable people in the community from April 2003.

"Supporting People" builds on the Government's commitment to rebuild the welfare state around work and security. It builds on other initiatives such as those to improve the role of social services, and the Government's wider strategy of reforming local government. To ensure that "Supporting People" delivers on its objectives, the Deputy Prime Minister has established an external reference group to inform the development of the "Supporting People" policy. One issue that this group will be looking at is how "Supporting People" can promote work incentives.

In the light of the Audit Commission's report, 'Charging with Care', published in May, we have taken powers under the Care Standards Act 2000 to issue statutory guidance to local councils on charges for non residential social services. Our aim is to move as far as possible towards greater consistency and fairness in charging. We will consult on draft guidance later this year.

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Prepared 27 February 2001