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Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement (1) on the cost in (a) 200001 and (b) 200102 of measures to meet the aspirational diversity targets referred to on page 35 of the 2001 Departmental report; 
Mr. Nicholas Brown: The cost of the measures which are intended to enable the Department to achieve its equality targets are inextricably linked to the broader costs associated with the promotion of equal opportunities and diversity, and cannot be separated. These are set out in the table. The key measures themselves are detailed in the Department's Diversity and Equal Opportunities Framework for Action.
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The figures relate to the costs of the Department's central policy team and to corporately funded initiatives. They do not take into account local implementation costs which are managed within regional budgets. In addition, as the principles of equal opportunities and diversity are embedded into all of the Department's human resources policies and procedures it is not possible to identify those costs separately.
(20) To the end of October 2001
Mr. Nicholas Brown: Common pay scales were reintroduced into the former DSS as part of the 2000 pay round. The overall cost of the pay package for that year was £67.57 million (equating to a 4.5 per cent. package). Of this, 1.2 per cent. or £17.9 million was the cost of bringing staff on to common pay scales.
Work is currently under way to inform and cost the approach for next year's pay award which will cover all staff in the newly formed Department for Work and Pensions (including Employment Service and ex DfEE staff).
Malcolm Wicks: Starting in April next year, the Government will pilot a new approach to assist long-term unemployed people who need more intensive help to get into work. Long-term recipients of jobseeker's allowance will be guaranteed a full-time job, lasting up to a year, and paid at the national minimum wage. In return, they will be required to take up that opportunity. It is our intention to ensure that there will be a choice of jobs on offer but no choice of simply remaining on benefit. Anyone who refuses to take up a job offer without good reason will have their benefit withdrawn in the same way as those jobseekers who fail to take up an offer of suitable employment.
Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to his statement of 28 November, (1) in what circumstances long-term unemployed may receive remuneration above the national minimum wage; 
Mr. Nicholas Brown: Long-term unemployed people participating in the new job guarantee scheme will be paid out of Government funds at the national minimum wage. Those with children will also be eligible to apply for
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working families tax credit in the same way as other workers. In addition, it will be open to employers to make payments on top of the funding provided by the Government but this will be entirely at their discretion.
Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to his statement of 28 November, what targets he has set in respect of his proposals for the long-term unemployed, including targets for sustained unsubsidised employment following completion of the 12-month period of employment; and what plans he has made to evaluate his proposals. 
Mr. Nicholas Brown: The new approach to assisting long-term unemployed people by guaranteeing them a full-time job will be piloted in 20 areas, starting in April 2002. Because these are pilots, no targets have been set for the number of participants moved into sustained unsubsidised employment. The pilots will provide the information we need to set such targets if and when the scheme is extended.
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to ensure that examining medical officers acting on behalf of his Department are familiar with the problems of deaf people. 
Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 6 December 2001]: All Medical Services doctors are trained to assess deafness in connection with medical examinations for benefit claims. They are trained to evaluate the effects of deafness, as measured by a person's ability to hear and understand the spoken voice, on activities of daily living.
A training module on "Sensory Impairment" will be delivered to all Medical Services doctors within the next nine months, as part of the Continuing Professional Education training programme. The module will update and reinforce previous training on assessment of people with hearing and/or visual impairment. It will draw doctors' attention to the communication problems experienced by deaf people, and to the need for effective communication between the doctor and the deaf person, through use of a sign language interpreter when appropriate.
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he has taken to ensure that only qualified sign language interpreters are used during medical assessments for deaf people who claim disability living allowance. 
Maria Eagle: Medical Services' existing procedures provide for a professional interpreter service for people with hearing difficulties. Where problems arise advice is sought from the Royal National Institute for the Deaf's helpline. However, some people may prefer to have a friend, relation or colleague to act as an interpreter.
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Maria Eagle: The information is not available. Last year the Appeals Service completed a Diversity Audit of service provision, including the support given to the tribunal members. The audit highlighted the fact that there was insufficient data on the particular needs of panel members. In order to collect this information the Appeals Service is currently undertaking a disability survey of all appeals tribunal members. The results will be available in the new year.
Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 6 December 2001]: We have commissioned a review of published evaluation evidence of vocational rehabilitation programmes in Europe, North America and Australia. We expect to publish the findings of this review in February 2002.
The Disability Services Research Partnership is undertaking a study of good practice in work preparation that will include lessons from international research. This project is expected to run until March 2002.
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the report of the British Society for Rehabilitation Medicine "Vocational RehabilitationThe Way Forward". 
Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 6 December 2001]: We welcome the contribution of the British Society for Rehabilitation Medicine to the debate on how to keep those people with an illness or disability in touch with the labour market and to reduce the numbers claiming incapacity benefit. We have fed ideas from the report into the Job Retention and Rehabilitation Pilots, which are in the final stages of design.
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what studies he has conducted into the cost- efficiency of (a) early and (b) interim (i) rehabilitation and (ii) work preparation after (A) trauma, (B) illness and (C) degenerative conditions of employees. 
Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 6 December 2001]: In 2002 Job Retention and Rehabilitation Pilots will be implemented which will help people in work affected by the onset of a long-term illness or disability. These pilots will test the effectiveness of intervening early with work focused help provided by health, employment and other agencies. The pilots will focus especially on people who complete six weeks on statutory sick pay, and who at that stage are at risk of not working again.
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The evaluation of the Job Retention and Rehabilitation Pilots will provide information on the cost effectiveness of a range of interventions aimed at maintaining in work people in the early stages of a potentially long-term illness or disability.
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to improve liaison with (a) the Department of Health and (b) relevant agencies in connection with the delivery of (i) vocational rehabilitation and (ii) occupational health services. 
Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 6 December 2001]: Ministers from both Departments expect to meet soon to discuss possible arrangements for joint working to take forward work on vocational rehabilitation.
We have also been working closely with the Health and Safety Executive and Health Development Agency and we have had discussions with a number of representative organisations, companies and individuals.
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has for (a) establishing a centre of excellence for and (b) disseminating good practice in vocational rehabilitation. 
Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 6 December 2001]: We have examined existing vocational rehabilitation services in the UK and it is apparent that some of the work being undertaken is of high quality. We are looking for ways to make best use of this work and centres of excellence are one of the options being considered. Disseminating best practice is key to developing such complex strategies, and we expect the Job Retention and Rehabilitation Pilots to inform us about what works, and at what cost and why. We are still looking at how a possible UK vocational rehabilitation strategy might be structured and the organisations that will be involved.
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