Maria Eagle: There are legal requirements concerning accessibility for disabled customers under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and, for new buildings, in Building Regulations. However, we know that many businesses simply wish to make their premises accessible because they know that this is good for customers and good for their business.
There is significant technical and practical information available to help businesses who are planning to improve accessibility for disabled people. In particular, the Disability Rights Commission has published a Code of Practice on Rights of Access to Goods, Facilities, Services and Premises, which provides practical guidance on how to improve access.
Local authority Building Control Departments are able to provide advice on compliance with Building Regulations and further advice on improving accessibility may be obtained from organisations such as the National Register of Access Consultants and the Centre For Accessible Environments.
Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to encourage businesses to ensure that their premises are fully accessible for disabled people; and if he will make a statement. 
Maria Eagle: We have run three publicity campaigns since 1999 to raise awareness of the Disability Discrimination Act, using posters, radio and press advertising. The latest campaign, "Open to Change" ran from January to March 2002. It was aimed specifically at service providers and illustrated the types of changes they can make to improve the delivery of their goods and services to disabled people.
The Government will also continue working through the Equality Direct helpline, the Disability Rights Commission, the Small Business Service and other organisations to ensure that effective information and advice is available to businesses.
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Mr. Roy: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the total spending on benefits for the long-term sick and disabled was in (a) 199091 and (b) 200001; and what change this represents in real terms. 
Mr Nicholas Brown: We are committed to giving all people of working age the help and support they need to find jobs where they are able to do so, and providing security for those who are unable to work. Our New Deal for Disabled People and Jobcentre Plus are already helping more disabled people to get and keep jobs.
|Spending on Long Term Sick and Disabled people
This represents a growth in real terms of 7 per cent. per annum.
Departmental Reports 1995 and 2002.
1. Real terms growth has been calculated using 20022003 prices.
2. Spending on those over working age has been excluded.
Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he will list the measures that have been introduced by this Government to make it easier for people with disabilities to gain employment; how many residents in (a) Glasgow, Pollok and (b) the City of Glasgow Council area have benefited from each of these proposals; how many people with disabilities in (i) Glasgow, Pollok and (ii) the City of Glasgow are seeking work; and if he will make a statement; 
Mr Nicholas Brown: Health problems are the most common barrier to work for people with disabilities, although research indicates that a broad range of non-medical factors such as availability of suitable work, confidence, level of skills, discrimination and financial considerations are also relevant.
We have introduced a range of measures to address these issues, making work possible and making work pay for people with disabilities. We have introduced the Disabled Person's Tax Credit and the National Minimum Wage. The New Deal for Disabled People and a range of specialist employment programmes such as Access To Work, WORKSTEP and Work Preparation are available to support disabled people who want to work.
In addition, most disabled people are able to make effective use of mainstream employment and training programmes. Integrated Jobcentre Plus offices offer all disabled people making new or repeat claims to benefit interviews with a personal adviser to ensure they are aware of the help and opportunities available to them.
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Specialist Disability Employment Advisers are available throughout Jobcentre plus to provide further support to people facing complex barriers to work.
We set up the Disability Rights Commission in April 2000. Its function is to work towards the elimination of discrimination and promote equality of opportunities for disabled people, promote good practice to employers and service providers, provide information and advice about the Disability Discrimination Act, and advise the Government on a range of policy issues within its remit.
We are also removing obstacles to work within the benefit system. For example, we have extended the Incapacity Benefit linking rules to 52 weeks, or 2 years for people receiving Disabled Persons Tax Credit, allowing disabled people to try out work safe in the knowledge that they can return to the same rate of benefit if the job doesn't work out. From April of this year, we have introduced the new permitted work rules to allow all people receiving incapacity benefits to try a small amount of work without the fear of losing their benefit entitlement.
Mr. Gerrard: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he intends to implement the recommendations of the Disability Rights Taskforce to extend protection from discrimination to those people with HIV from the point of diagnosis. 
Maria Eagle: We are already delivering on our commitments and have made clear that we will be bringing many of them into force in 2004 when we extend the current employment rights in the Disability Discrimination Act to employees in small firms, barristers, partners in business partnerships, the police and people in a range of other jobs. We are totally committed to comprehensive and enforceable civil rights for disabled people and will make further improvements to the DDA when legislative time allows including extending the definition of disability to people with HIV from the point of diagnosis.
Mr. Berry: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) (a) how and (b) when his Department will meet its commitments in the Government's response to the disability rights taskforce recommendations. 
Maria Eagle: We are already delivering on our commitments and have made clear that we will be bringing many of them into force in 2004 when we extend the current employment rights in the Disability Discrimination Act to employees in small firms, barristers, partners in business partnerships, the police and
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people in a range of other jobs. We are committed to comprehensive and enforceable civil rights for disabled people and will make further improvements to the DDA when Parliamentary time allows including introducing a duty on the public sector to promote equality of opportunity for disabled people.
Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will define more precisely the term "exceptional pressure" in Direction Four criteria for community care grant applications. 
Malcolm Wicks: Guidance for decision makers on my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State's Social Fund Direction Four is in the Social Fund Guide, a copy of which is available in the Library. The guidance makes clear that the term "exceptional pressure" is designed to encompass a wide variety of special circumstances. However, the guidance does not attempt to give priority to different sets of circumstances or types of application because this would limit the decision maker's discretion and penalise or deter those applicants who have urgent need but whose circumstances do not fit into a pre-defined category.
Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what plans he has to ensure that applicants for community care grants throughout the United Kingdom have equal access to these grants at all times;  (2) what plans the Government have to review the allocation of community care grants by the Benefits Agency when prioritising applicants. 
Malcolm Wicks: The community care grant scheme is administered through 127 cash-limited District budgets. The discretionary nature of the scheme means that there will always be variation in the amounts awarded depending on location, because customers' characteristics, needs and priorities are not directly comparable across areas. Budget allocations are designed to anticipate as far as possible, the nature and extent of local demand in order to achieve consistency in decision making. The scheme is kept under close review during the year to monitor the extent to which this objective is met.
It is for each District to set the level of priority that can be met from their community care grant allocation. All Districts are required to give priority to high priority needs throughout the period of the allocation, working within the boundaries of the Secretary of State's directions and guidance.
Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to ensure that applicants for (a) community care grants and (b) budgeting loans will be provided with adequate information explaining their award or refusal. 
Malcolm Wicks: Anyone who applies for a community care grant or a budgeting loan receives a written explanation about their decision, together with a telephone number for them to contact a decision maker if they require further explanation. In addition, budgeting loan decision notifications include a calculation sheet which sets out in clear stages how the final decision has been reached.
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Mr. Kirkwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the average community care grant was for (a) high and (b) medium priority awards in each year since 1997 in (i) cash and (ii) real terms. 
Malcolm Wicks: We have increased the community care grant budget four times since 1997. The latest rise, of almost five per cent from £103 million in 200102 to £108 million for the current year, was above the level of inflation.