HC Deb 21 June 2004 vol 422 cc1252-3W
Tony Lloyd

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the measures introduced to improve the working conditions of disabled workers in Manchester Central over the last seven years. [177741]

Maria Eagle

We have a number of measures in place nationally to help improve conditions for disabled people at work, as well as measures to improve their access to services generally. None of these are specific to Manchester Central, but all are available to disabled people who live and work there.

From 1996, the employment provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act required most employers of 20 or more staff not to discriminate against, and to make reasonable adjustments for, disabled job applicants or employees; in December 1998, we reduced this threshold to 15 employees. From October this year, the small employer exemption will be removed and most currently excluded occupations, such as police officers, fire-fighters, and partners in business partnerships will be brought within the scope of the Disability Discrimination Act employment provisions.

Jobcentre Plus runs a number of specialist programmes providing help for disabled people, including New Deal for Disabled People, Workstep, Access to Work, the Job Introduction Scheme, and Work Preparation. All these programmes provide practical advice and support to disabled people and their employers to help overcome work related obstacles resulting from disability. Since 1997–98 there have been year on year increases in both numbers helped and programme spend.

To help people access appropriate help, Jobcentre Plus has established a network of Disability Service Teams. The teams are made up of Disability Employment Advisors, Access to Work Advisers and Occupational Psychologists; their services are accessed through local Jobcentres.

Since April 2003, disabled people in work have been receiving financial support through the Working Tax Credit. This is available if a person is working an average of at least 16 hours per week (self-employed or for an employer); and have a disability which puts them at a disadvantage in getting a job. 70,000 families (including over 32,000 adults without children) are benefiting from the disability element within the Working Tax Credit, compared to 38,000 who benefited from the old Disabled Person's Tax Credit.