§ Mr. Howard
As last year's consultative document "Employment and Training for People with Disabilities" made clear, we are committed to providing sheltered employment for people with severe disabilities. In the current financial year we are providing funds for an average of 5,550 people in sheltered workshops and 6,700 people under the sheltered placement scheme. In this financial year, in order to help meet the costs incurred by sponsors we have already increased the annual grant ceiling per place for voluntary bodies by £200 to £3,480 and that for local authorities by £130 to £2,730. I am now further increasing these grant ceilings for this financial year by £40 to £3,520 and by £30 to £2,760 respectively.
In 1991–92 I am providing £4.3 million more than this year's provision for sheltered workshops and the sheltered placement scheme. These additional funds will again be used to help meet the costs of voluntary bodies and local authorities by increasing the grant ceilings by a further £280 and £240 respectively to bring them to £3,800 for voluntary bodies and £3,000 for local authorities.
In addition, I shall be making available just under £6 million in 1991–92 for capital expenditure which represents an increase of just over £2 million on expenditure this year. This money will be available to help meet the cost of essential refurbishment and development where that is clearly consistent with our long-term objectives for sheltered employment. I expect that some money will also be available in 1991–92 for innovative or experimental activities aimed at exploring the scope for improving the way in which the provision is made.
Pressure on resources both within the sheltered employment programme and elsewhere has meant that I have had to decide that the average number of places nationally in both these forms of sheltered provision will remain the same in 1991–92. However, previous patterns of turnover on the sheltered placement scheme indicate that some 1,000 existing places are likely to become vacant to allow new entrants to join the programme.
I will be considering future sheltered employment provision, including the balance between the sheltered placement scheme and other forms of sheltered employment, in the light of comments received on the consultative document. However, research reported by Social and Community Planning Research in "Employment and Handicap" and discussed in the consultative document revealed that a substantial number of severely disabled people are in open employment or self employment but not under the sheltered placement scheme. It is clearly important that we know more about how such severely disabled people manage without the support offered by the sheltered employment programme and the Employment Service has therefore commissioned research to explore this matter further.