§ Mr. Loyden
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many jobcentres and how many unemployment benefit offices are earmarked for closure under his plan to transfer the employment service to agency status; how many jobs are likely to be lost and at what grades; and what targets the new agency will be required to achieve.
§ Mr. Nicholls
I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Boothferry (Mr. Davis) on 1 December 1989 (Official Report, columns 461–62). It is the intention that the employment service (ES) should be launched as an executive agency in April 1990, and will establish a new network of offices, bringing together the full range of employment service activities under one roof wherever possible.
Plans are being developed for this new network and when decisions have been taken the local Member of Parliament will be informed.
Targets for the employment service in 1990–91 have not yet been finalised and will be published later.
§ Mr. Ashley
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what steps he is taking to ensure that the new and remodelled employment service offices will be fully accessible to people with disabilities, following the launch of the employment service as an executive agency in April.
§ Mr. Nicholls
The employment service continually reviews its obligations under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 which requires buildings to which the public are admitted to be provided with facilities that meet the needs of disabled members of the public.
All new and remodelled employment service offices will be planned to a nationally agreed framework and standards. The design guide will include a section specifically on the requirements of people with disabilities. This will he based on the provisions for people with disabilities already in operation throughout the employment service and will carry forward the recommendations of a recent working group report on employment service local office design. These included:single reception point for all visitors that is fully accessible to people with disabilities;signs to be easily visible to all (eg. people in wheelchairs);hearing loops to be considered where necessary with the signs for these facilities prominently displayed;the need to provide appropriate seating for people with disabilities is also to be considered.
Trials at three pilot employment service offices include new vacancy display boards designed to be more accessible to people in wheelchairs.