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Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his policy is in respect of the publication (a) on the departmental website and (b) by placing copies in the Library of (i) all or (ii) a selection of the information disclosed in response to Freedom of Information requests since January. 
Maria Eagle: Guidance on Publication Schemes, issued by the Department for Constitutional Affairs in July 2002, recommended that where information is disclosed to an individual in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act, Departments and NDPBs should consider whether the information disclosed is of general interest and include released information in the Publication Scheme where appropriate.
The Department for Work and Pensions now has arrangements in place for information that is of wider general interest, and which has been released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, to be posted on its internet site where it will be readily accessible. There are no plans to place such information in the Library.
Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what measures his Department is implementing to encourage those claiming incapacity benefit to return to work if they are able to do so. 
Maria Eagle: The Government's vision is to deliver a fundamental change in the way that people with a health condition or disability, but who want and are able to work, are given support to find, remain and progress in employment. We believe that everyone who wants and is able to get back to work should be helped and enabled to do so.
Our groundbreaking Pathways to Work programme provides intensive help and support to people on incapacity benefits who want to work again. In December 2004 we announced a significant extension of the Pathways to Work pilots to include an additional 14Jobcentre Plus districts starting from October this year.
Building on the expansion of Pathways to Work we have announced a number of measures as part of the Five Year Strategy that will improve incapacity benefits in order to ensure that there are clear rewards for moving into work, and that will address the anxieties many claimants have about trying out a job by minimising the risks. We recognise that a person's health condition can affect their ability to work in varying degrees, sometimes making work very unlikely, but sometimes leaving a good prospect of a return to work.
Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the percentage of incapacity benefit claims that subsequently proved to be unsubstantiated in the last year for which figures are available. 
Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what action he plans to take to discourage general practitioners from issuing sick notes that support dubious incapacity benefit claims. 
Maria Eagle: The vast majority of GPs provide advice on fitness for work which they believe to be in the best interests of their patient. The Department has recently revised the guidance to doctors about providing advice to patients on fitness for work and appropriate certification. This guidance is supported by case examples and evidence based recovery times and is available on the Department's website.
The reforms to incapacity benefits, as set out in the five year strategy, will apply to new claimants only. However, existing claimants, including long-term claimants, would be able to access the help and support on offer to help them return to work.
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Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the effect on the number of people leaving incapacity benefit of the means-testing of new claims. 
Mr. Pond: Our initial assessment is that the draft report, because for example it is based on a very small number of interviews, does not present a balanced view of current UK policy, law and practice and that some of the recommendations are very difficult to justify. Officials, having consulted officials from other relevant Government Departments, are responding to the ILO on the detail, and we will make a further assessment when they have completed their discussions.
Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many staff in his Department have (a) received official warnings and (b) faced disciplinary procedures following breaches of IT policy in each year since 1997. 
|July 2003 to March 2004||253|
|April 2004 to September 2004||171|
The Department's Electronic Media policy sets out the conditions for the official and personal use of the Department for Work and Pensions' Information Technology (IT) and covers intranet, internet, email, work PC and laptop.
When an offence comes to light consideration is given to establish whether restriction of duties, transfer or suspension from duty is appropriate and what disciplinary action is required. Failure to report a criminal caution can of itself be treated as a disciplinary offence.
Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions which job centres (a) are due to be closed and (b) are due to remain open; what the timescale is for those remaining open to become Jobcentre Plus; and if he will make a statement. 
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question concerning our plans for closing and retaining Jobcentres, and the timescale for completing the transformation of Jobcentre Plus. This is something which falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
I have placed in the Library a list of sites planned for closure as part of the Jobcentre Plus rollout programme and activity to centralise benefit processing. This list includes a number of sites which are closing through merging with co-located offices. While the majority of these sites will be disposed of in due course, a number will be retained by Jobcentre Plus to accommodate non-customer facing activity.
I have also placed in the Library a list of our planned Local Service Outletsthose customer-facing offices providing access to our services. This listing includes what we refer to as Flexible Service Delivery sites, where we are working with local partners to provide access to services through third party premises.
I should stress that this is a snapshot of our plans based on the best information available. The lists of offices will inevitably change as we progress through rollout of the new, integrated service and continue to refine our plans for centralising benefit processing in Jobcentre Plus. For example, a significant number of the site closures are dependent on construction of new buildings or acquisition of new premises and these are often subject to delays and other issues. I would also expect the number of Flexible Service Delivery sites to increase significantly as we conclude local discussions with partners on arrangements.
We continue to review the plans for our network as the reducing headcount is impacted on all parts of the business, and we may have to reconsider the future viability of a number of sites in this context. Completing the rollout of the new service and centralising benefit processing at the same time is a challenging programme of work and I can assure you that providing customer service is at the centre of decisions we make. We will also ensure that local stakeholders are kept informed of progress and any changes to our plans.
We are shaping the future Jobcentre Plus network in response to the changing business need. The need for face-to-face facilities for jobsearch and other aspects of our business has been superseded in many instances by new business processes and the use of information technology. For example, over the last 12months we have seen an increase of over 40 per cent. in the number of hits on our jobsearch website. Encouraging our customers to use these new channels enables us to focus on those customers who need greatest help, through the intervention of personal advisers, for example.
You will see from the lists that we will retain a significant network of offices through which customers can access our services. Our current forecast is that when rollout is complete the total number of outlets from which our services can be accessed is likely to be around 1,000. On present plans, our network will be substantially complete by the Summer of next year.
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