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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, the amendment, if passed, would ensure that where JSA is not a qualifying benefit for disability working allowance because the claimant is not eligible for the disability premium, the claimant may still be considered for disability working allowance.
Disability working allowance is designed to help some people on long-term incapacity benefits to make the difficult transition into work. It provides a top-up for people who have a limited earning capacity because of an illness or disability which puts them at a disadvantage in getting a job.
The best way of targeting disability working allowance is through a connection with incapacity and disability benefits. The qualifying benefit test requires that a person must either be receiving disability living allowance, or a similar benefit, or within 56 days before they claimed disability working allowance, they must have been receiving the higher rate short-term incapacity benefit or long-term incapacity benefit, severe disablement allowance or a disability premium with income support, housing benefit or council tax benefit.
The qualifying benefit test is important in two ways. First, the connection with an incapacity benefit provides an effective measure of disability which obviates the need for a medical examination for new disability working allowance claims. Secondly, it ensures that the resources available are directed to those with greatest need.
The Government are committed to the success of disability working allowance. Although the caseload is small, it has been growing steadily since it was introduced in 1992. We are aware that take-up is slower than we thought it would be. We have commissioned research by the Policy Studies Institute as part of the evaluation of the benefit. Its final report is due in 1996. Any fundamental changes to DWA would be premature in advance of a full evaluation.
I can say to the noble Lord, Lord Carter, that we are committed to raising awareness. We want awareness to be high. We have produced videos in conjunction with the Royal National Institute for the Blind and MENCAP. We have advertised in the jobs pages of the local press and produced a magazine, New Start. So we have made efforts to increase the caseload. It is growing steadily but it has a long way to go before it meets the legitimate expectations of all those who supported DWA at the time of its introduction.
Lord Swinfen: My Lords, I shall certainly withdraw the amendment. I shall read what my noble friend said, and it is possible that I may return to the matter at the next stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Page 45, line 38, after ("6(6)") insert ("or 7(7)").
House adjourned at ten minutes past midnight.
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