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Mental Illness: Employment

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what measures he is taking to promote actively the employment within (a) his Department and (b) public sector bodies for whom he has responsibility of people with mental illnesses in line with the advice and codes of practice produced by the Disability Rights Commission. [117090]

Mrs. McGuire: Under the Disability Equality Duty introduced by the Disability Discrimination Act 2005, my Department and the public sector bodies for which I am responsible are required to publish and implement Disability Equality schemes. These are plans setting out how we will carry out the Disability Equality Duty, monitor, and report on progress. In particular, this includes our arrangements for gathering information on the effect of our policies and practices on the recruitment, development and retention of our disabled employees and making use of that information.

In addition, all external recruitment advertisements contain the “Positive About Disabled People Two Ticks Symbol”, and the Department ensures that all applicants who declare a disability are given reasonable adjustments at each stage of the selection process to ensure they are competing on a level playing field.

When disabled applicants are successful, all relevant adjustments are made, in consultation with the individual and expert advisers where appropriate. Managers keep under review any particular
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requirements that disabled employees may have, in line with the “Two Ticks” commitments.

The Department also operates the Workstep scheme, which enables people with severe disabilities to be employed, with support from external providers such as Remploy and Scope.

The public sector bodies sponsored by my department that are subject to these requirements are responsible for publishing and implementing their own disability equality schemes.

Non-residential Care: Charges

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment has been undertaken by his Department of the effect of increasing charges for non-residential care services on (a) elderly and disabled people and (b) carers. [116995]

Mrs. McGuire: None. Benefits are not paid to meet charges for non-residential care services, but local authorities may take those received by service users into account when assessing the level of charges to be made in line with the statutory guidance, “Fairer Caring Policies for Home Care and other non-residential Social Services”, issued by the Department of Health and last amended in September 2003.

Office for Disability Issues

Mr. Hunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many times the ministerial group overseeing the Office for Disability Issues has met; who was present at each meeting; and what was discussed at each meeting. [109005]

Mrs. McGuire [holding answer 13 December 2006]: The Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People Ministerial Group is responsible for leading the cross-Government strategy for improving the life chances of disabled people, for establishing priorities, for identifying and securing resources, for maintaining collective commitment to the programme of work in order to ensure progress, and for reporting annually to the Prime Minister.

This group meets quarterly and has met eight times. The agenda at each meeting relates to the implementation of the life chances report. To ensure that all Departments are represented at every meeting, where individual Ministers are unable to attend, they are represented by senior officials from their Department.

Ministerial attendance:

4 April 2005

6 June 2005

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14 July 2005

18 October 2005

1 February 2006

17 May 2006

20 July 2006

14 November 2006

Over-50 Employment

Dr. Francis: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment has been made of the effects of an employer-supported care voucher scheme on his Department's targets to improve the employment of people aged over 50 years; and if he will make a statement. [109289]

Mrs. McGuire: The Government currently have no plans to extend tax relief for childcare vouchers to cover the care of adults. The Government have to look carefully at the costs and benefits of any proposal when making an assessment of the economic case for intervention in this area.

Personal Capability Assessments

Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he will publish the findings from the initial round of testing of the revised personal capability assessment. [108750]

Mr. Jim Murphy [holding answer 12 December 2006]: We carried out an initial, limited evaluation of the revised PCA descriptors and scores in October 2006 to test the hypothesis that the revised descriptors would accurately identify limited capability for work; and to enable us to begin drafting regulations. We plan to publish the report of this interim evaluation in February 2007.

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Social Security Benefits: Administrative Delays

Julia Goldsworthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much his Department spent on refunding bank penalty charges which have arisen as a result of benefit payments being late because of an error on the part of his Department in each year since 2001. [117759]

Mr. Plaskitt: The information is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

State Retirement Pension

Andrew Stunell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people have not received a state retirement pension payment to which they are entitled since 1 January 2007 in each region of the UK; and if he will make a statement. [117546]

James Purnell: The information is not available.

Andrew Stunell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many state retirement pension applications are waiting to be processed; and if he will make a statement. [117547]

James Purnell: At the end of December 2006, the Pension Service had 54,099 state pension applications registered on the system waiting to be processed.

Telephone Inquiry Service

Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what action he is taking to improve the (a) performance and (b) accessibility of the telephone inquiry service operated by his Department; and if he will make a statement. [110893]

Mrs. McGuire [holding answer 24 January 2007]: The recent Government response to the Public Accounts Committee report into DWP contact centres identifies ways in which performance and accessibility are being improved:

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Visually Impaired: Mobility Allowance

Tom Levitt: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what representations he has received in favour of allowing visually impaired people to access the higher rate of mobility allowance under disability living allowance; and what response he has made to such representations. [116879]

Mrs. McGuire: Since July 2006 the Department has received 277 letters from Members of Parliament, and a further eight letters from members of the public about the access to disability living allowance higher-rate mobility component for visually impaired people. In that period we have also answered seven parliamentary questions, including this one, on this topic.

The higher rate mobility component of disability living allowance is designed for people who are physically unable, or virtually unable, to walk. It is also available to people who are both deaf and blind and require the assistance of another person to walk to any intended or required destination when out of doors, because their particular combination of disabilities means that they are, in effect, virtually unable to walk. In addition, visually impaired people who do not qualify for the higher rate mobility component can still qualify for the lower rate of the mobility component if they require guidance or supervision from another person when walking out of doors on unfamiliar routes.

We are discussing with the Royal National Institute for the Blind whether there is scope for improving the help with mobility-related extra costs for registered blind people who have no useful sight for orientation.

Welfare Sanctions

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what advice he has received since 11 September 2006 from the Health Professionals Advisory Group on the likely effect of sanctions proposed in the Welfare Reform Bill which could result in disabled people losing benefit. [115839]

Mr. Jim Murphy: The Health Professionals Advisory Group has not discussed benefit sanctions or the likely impact of any such sanctions.


Aneurysm Screening

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when she expects the pilot studies for aneurysm screening to begin; and if she will make a statement. [112201]

Mr. Mullin: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans she has to introduce abdominal aortic aneurysm screening for men aged 65 years; and if she will make a statement. [112227]

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Ms Rosie Winterton [holding answers 29 January 2007]: The United Kingdom national screening committee (NSC) has advised that screening for men aged 65 for abdominal aortic aneurysms can be recommended in principle subject to further detailed work, particularly on the appropriate configuration of treatment services and the provision of information and support to enable men to make an informed choice about whether to undergo screening. The NSC is undertaking further work on abdominal aortic aneurysm screening and will consider this topic again at its next meeting in March 2007. At present there are no plans for any abdominal aortic aneurysm screening pilots.

Care Homes: Disabled

James Duddridge: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many physically disabled young adults live in care homes designed for (a) the elderly and (b) other care groups. [117758]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The information requested is not collected centrally.

Clinical Services Centres

Geraldine Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether there are plans for a clinical assessment treatment and support centre in the Morecambe/Lancaster area. [117613]

Andy Burnham [holding answer 30 January 2007]: The six primary care trusts in Cumbria and Lancashire are currently carrying out public consultation on the details of the local implementation of the clinical assessment and treatment and support (CATS) services in the two counties. The consultation covers the location of the CATS sites, the impact on the wider health services, how the CATS can fit seamlessly into the pathway from general practitioner referral through to local hospital treatment, and whether the clinical specialties proposed (orthopaedics, rheumatology, ear nose and throat, general surgery, urology and gynaecology) are the most appropriate.

The Queen Victoria site in Morecambe is one of nine potential sites currently under consideration for a CATS service. In total, it is likely that there will be eight CATS sites across the area.

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