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One of the main ways DWP is already working towards ensuring compliance with existing and new Disability Discrimination legislation is through publication of its Disability Equality Schemes by 4 December 2006. Businesses and corporate centre directorates will be involving disabled people in developing action plans for tackling problem areas and identifying positive actions to address these. The process to develop our Schemes was formally launched on 12 April 2006 by the Permanent Secretary. We have begun the process of involving both staff and customers in developing our Schemes and are planning a training strategy to ensure our staff are aware of the new legislation.
We advise that all parts of DWP undertake to consider the potential impact of policy and services on all equality groups and we are implementing a new impact assessment tool across all diversity areas. We have already undertaken at least three impact assessments taking into account disability, with a number of additional assessments in the process of being completed.
DWP commissioned public access audits of all its premises used by the public during 2003. The results were used to develop a programme of public access improvements that was implemented in the following year and completed in March 2005, with the exception of a small number of Jobcentre Plus refurbishment programme sites, scheduled for completion in June 2006.
A total of 1,735 buildings were surveyed with access impotents works being undertaken at 1,032 sites at a cost of £4 million. The existing public access provisions are subject to annual review and any future additional requirement is built into the annual maintenance work programmes.
The Department has worked in partnership with the Employers Forum on Disability (EFD) in order to address the needs of its disabled customers. In particular, it has contributed, along with other public and private organisations, to the highly acclaimed interactive Disability Confident training resource pack.
DWP has been running two pilot exercises in the Disability and Carers Service (DCS) on a revised process for delivering reasonable adjustments. The development of the new process was partly in response to the length of time it took to assess and put reasonable adjustments into place and partly to ensure that the recommended adjustment was the most suitable for that individual. The new process opens formal communication channels between suppliers and so far, the results have been positive. There has been a notable reduction in the time it is taking to achieve a successful outcome.
Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the cost of extending entitlement to the higher rate for Disability Living Allowance for mobility to all people of a qualifying age who are registered blind. 
Mrs. McGuire: The estimated cost of extending automatic entitlement to the higher rate mobility component of disability living allowance in this way would be about £61 million a year at current benefit rates(1).
(1) The estimate is based on the latest (31 March 2003) figures for the numbers of registered blind people in England, Scotland and Wales and on 100 per cent. data for the numbers of disability living allowance recipients as at November 2005 from the Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study.
Annette Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will take steps to ensure the inclusion of an article prohibiting forced sterilisation of children with disabilities in the forthcoming UN Convention on People with Disabilities; and if he will make a statement. 
Mrs. McGuire: The Government consider that this matter is already addressed in general terms in the article in the present draft text of the convention concerning respect for home and the family, but would be prepared to consider any more specific proposals put forward during the next negotiating session on the draft convention in August 2006.
Mrs. Dean: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment his Department has made of the change in the number of gaming machines manufactured in the UK over the last five years; and if he will make a statement. 
These discussions provide the opportunity for the Department to gain a good understanding of the gaming machine industry and the issues it is facing. I will shortly be undertaking a fresh round of meetings with the industry.
Peter Viggers: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many civil servants were employed in his Department before the Gershon report; what net reductions are proposed in the Gershon report; how many reductions have been made; and how many civil servants are expected to be employed in his Department in the Gershon target month of April 2008. 
Mrs. McGuire: As set out in the Gershon Review the Department is planning to reduce staff numbers by a net 30,000 full-time equivalents by the agreed date of 31 March 2008 from a baseline of 132,550 as at 1 March 2004. As at 31 December 2005 the reduction achieved was 14,860.
Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many illegal immigrants have been discovered to be employed by his Department in each year since 2001; in what capacities they were employed; how many were discovered as part of a criminal investigation; and what the nature of the charges brought against them was. 
Mrs. McGuire: The information requested is not routinely obtained. In common with all Government Departments, DWP has in place standard pre-appointment checks which are carried out during the recruitment process and which are intended to ensure that the employment status of all applicants is confirmed prior to them being offered a post. These controls also have the effect of deterring prospective applicants who are not entitled to work in the UK. Decisions on the legality of an individuals status would be determined by the immigration authorities. Any information that comes to light during the recruitment process which raises a question about the immigration status of any individual applicant would be dealt with at the time. Where appropriate, authorities would be consulted on individual cases.
Mr. Ruffley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 7 March 2006, Official Report, column 1350W to the hon. Member for Putney (Justine Greening), on incapacity benefit, when he expects his Department to conclude its review of the incapacity benefits caseload forecasts; and whether he plans to publish the forecasts. 
The latest forecast estimates of the number of incapacity benefit or severe disablement allowance claimants, consistent with the best available data, are shown up to 2019-20 in the following table.
These forecasts do not take into account any of the proposed policy changes in the recent papers, A new deal for welfare: Empowering people to work, or Security in retirement: towards a new pensions system.
|Estimated numbers of working-age claimants of incapacity benefit or severe disablement allowance, 2005-06 to 2019-20|
| Notes: 1. Figures are rounded to the nearest 10,000. 2. Figures are forecasts, therefore subject to future revisions. 3. Figures include the impact of the one-third rollout of Pathways to Work and estimates of the impact of equalisation of state pension age on the IB caseload.|
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question asking how many days have been lost to sickness absence in each of the last three years in Jobcentre Plus. This is something which falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
The information is in the table.
|Number of days lost to sickness absence in Jobcentre Plus|
|Working days lost||Working days available||Average working days lost per staff full time equivalent (days)|
Jobcentre Plus has placed a great deal of emphasis on reducing sickness over several years and we continue to press for further improvement.
I hope this is helpful.
Mr. Tom Clarke: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he will publish the report of the joint Department for Work and Pensions/Department of Health working group on learning disabilities, Improving Work Opportunities for People with a Learning Disability. 
Mrs. McGuire: The report Improving Work Opportunities for People with a Learning Disability is a report of a working group on learning disabilities and employment. The working groups report is to Ministers and to the Learning Disability Task Force and I expect it to be published shortly.
Mr. Jim Murphy: Specific information regarding low income for Wales, Scotland and the English regions is available in the latest publication of Households Below Average Income 1994-95 to 2004-05. The threshold of below 60 per cent. contemporary median income is the most commonly used in reporting trends in low income.
Our current approach in Opportunity for all is to present a range of low-income thresholds (50, 60 and 70 per cent.). This gives an idea of the depth of poverty and it is simple to interpret. Indeed, the incorporation of two different relative low-income thresholds into our new child poverty measure (60 and 70 per cent. of median), together with the absolute tier, further ensures that different depths of poverty will be looked at separately.
We know that there are some anomalies at the very bottom end of the income distribution, due to people misreporting income, to self-employment, and to people on temporary zero income but with high living standards (e.g. students, people taking a career break). These become proportionally more important the smaller the group we focus on. That is part of the reason that, from next year, we will be collating material deprivation data as well, excluding people with low measured income but high living standards.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the level of (a) sickness and (b) unauthorised absence was in (a) his Department and (b) each of its agencies in each year since 1996-97; what progress has been made in meeting targets for a reduction in sickness and unauthorised absence; and if he will make a statement. 
The information available is contained in the following tables. The figures represent average working
days lost per staff year, and have been drawn from the Cabinet Offices annual reports on sickness absence in the civil service. The information for 2005 is not yet available.
The Department for Work and Pensions was formed in 2001. The overall figures prior to this date relate to absence levels in the Department of Social Security and the Employment Service. A comprehensive breakdown of the DSS agencies figures prior to 2001 is not available.
|Table 1: Sickness absence information for the former DSS and ES|
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