Previous Section Index Home Page

There are also major new policy developments that fall to the Department for Work and Pensions. New claimants of out-of-work benefits will go through a systematic skills screening process to identify basic numeracy, literacy or language needs. Those identified with skills needs which are a major barrier to finding
26 Nov 2007 : Column 7WS
employment will be referred to attend a full skills health check, delivered by the new adult advancement and careers service. For claimants reaching six months on jobseeker’s allowance or the new employment and support allowance, we will enable personal advisers to mandate a skills health check if appropriate.

Based on the results of a skills health check, the personal adviser will decide whether the claimant should be referred to training focused on getting them back to work. We will pilot making such training mandatory for claimants who reach the six month point on jobseeker’s allowance.

At present lone parents lose eligibility for income support when their youngest child turns 16, however we have been consulting on whether this age should be lowered. To ensure that all lone parents are making the preparations needed to engage with mandatory jobsearch at this point, we will encourage them to undergo a skills health check two years before their eligibility for income support is due to end. And we intend to consult on whether this should be mandatory.

Currently benefit rules prevent jobseeker’s allowance customers from studying for more than 16 hours per week, for more than two weeks per year. In the future, we will enable customers who have been claiming JSA for six months or more to undertake full time training for up to eight weeks, provided that the training is focused on a return to work—by moving them onto training allowances. We will also remove the so-called ‘16-hour rule’ in housing benefit for short-term recipients of incapacity benefit.

And because we recognise the particular challenges faced by some vulnerable groups who require housing benefit whilst undertaking necessary full-time training, we will consider whether it might be practicable to define limited exemptions from the ‘16-hour rule’ for specific groups—such as young people living in supported accommodation.


26 Nov 2007 : Column 8WS

We will roll out two elements of the current employment retention and advancement pilot nationally for lone parents:

My Department is currently rolling out the Pathways to Work programme for new claimants of incapacity benefit, and next year will be introducing the new employment and support allowance. Today I am also announcing that we will gradually roll out pathways support to existing incapacity benefit claimants who are aged under 25.

Through tax credits, in-work credits and the minimum wage, this Government have already done a great deal to make work pay. We now intend to go further, to ensure that long-term benefit claimants moving into work see an increase in their income of at least £25 per week—thereby making allowance for reasonable travel costs.

These measures will play an important part in the next radical phase of welfare reform which will open up unprecedented opportunities for disadvantaged groups to contribute to and to benefit from national prosperity. Tomorrow I intend to publish further details on how we will work with the private and third sectors to deliver this vision.

There are over 600,000 job vacancies in Britain every day. Our mission is to get British benefit claimants into British jobs to become British workers.

A copy of the Prime Minister’s speech delivered today to the CBI will be available at: www.number-10.gov.uk


    Index Home Page