The Countess of Mar, the crossbencher who chairs the Forward ME Group, has been tabling questions about government support for people with fluctuating medical conditions who want to work.
In her first question on the subject, the Countess asked what technological provision the Government intend to make in order to support home working for people with fluctuating medical conditions who are considered by the work capability assessment to be able to do some work.
In a written answer on 23 May 2011, Parliamentary Secretary of State for Welfare Reform Lord Freud replied:
Support is available for people with fluctuating medical conditions or disabilities, including those working from home through the specialist disability employment programmes. In all cases, support is tailored to individual needs, which may include the nature of a disability related barrier to employment and the type of employment itself. Support can be provided through:
Work Choice-a programme that provides disabled people with complex support needs that could not be met through other employment support provision, have access to the right support to help them prepare for, enter and retain employment (including self-employment).
Access to Work-is a specialist disability programme delivered by Jobcentre Plus to help disabled people take up or retain paid work.
application for support is made by individual disabled people (not employers) who are entering, or already in, paid work including self-employment; the programme can support costs faced by a disabled person or their employer beyond what is reasonable for an employer to meet. This may include the costs of adapting equipment, providing special equipment or software, providing a support worker or paying for the additional costs incurred by a disabled person in travelling to work.
In addition, we will launch the Work Programme this summer. We believe that providers are best placed to understand what works to help individual customers back to work. To achieve this, providers should have freedom to deliver in the most efficient and innovative way possible. Therefore we will not prescribe what Work Programme providers should deliver to help people back into sustained employment and will use their experience and knowledge to deliver support most appropriate to the individual.
And, in her second question, the Countess asked what measures the Government intended to take is to encourage employers to take on, accommodate and retain staff who have long-term fluctuating medical conditions.
Lord Freud replied:
The Government already have a number of such measures in place.
Through the health, work and well-being cross-government programme, DWP is working to protect and improve the health and well-being of the working population. This programme promotes the positive links between health and work and aims to help more people with health conditions to stay in or return to work.
Through the Work Programme the Government are ensuring all out-of-work benefit customers will be able to access the programme at a time that is right for them. The bulk of payments available to Work Programme providers are for helping people stay in work in the long term. For example, providers can claim payments for customers moving from incapacity benefits to employment and support allowance for over two years after job entry. This is a strong incentive both to continue supporting customers with health conditions and their employers, and to find jobs that are appropriate for the individual in the first place.
Jobcentre Plus is putting in place a much more flexible, personalised approach to helping people back into work, including:
a suite of measures bringing together communities, the voluntary sector, business people and employers, to help get people back to work;a comprehensive menu of support options including skills provision and job search help;this menu will be complemented by the Get Britain Working measures and provision funded through the European Social Fund; and a single flexible fund has also been created from a number of discretionary adviser funds and programmes targeted on overcoming barriers to employment.