Annette Brooke MP (Liberal Democrat and chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on ME) tabled the following written question for the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions:
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what steps his Department is taking to ensure that people with ME or chronic fatigue syndrome and their healthcare professionals are (a) helped to access appropriate support and (b) given the correct out of work support; (2) what support is in place to help people with ME or chronic fatigue syndrome who are well enough to consider a return to work.
It was answered as follows on May 14 by Mike Penning MP, Minister of State at the DWP:
We do not target our employment programmes exclusively at individuals with particular conditions such as M.E. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The Department's programmes, including its specialist disability employment programmes, aim to identify and meet the needs of the individual, including those with M.E. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Access to Work provides additional support for individuals whose health or disability affects the way they do their job. It provides individuals and their employers with advice and support with extra costs which may arise because of an individual's needs. Access to Work does not replace the duty an employer has under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments.
Work Choice is a specialist disability employment programme that provides tailored support to help disabled people who face the most complex barriers to employment, find and stay in work and ultimately help them progress into unsupported employment, where it is appropriate for the individual.
Jobcentre Plus Disability Employment Advisers can provide support and advice for disabled people who need help finding and retaining employment. They can refer individuals to specialist programmes, including Work Choice, and can use the professional expertise of Work Psychologists, who specialise in working with disabled people. Disability Employment Advisers can advocate with employers on the individual's behalf and help employers to explore job solutions such as the restructuring of a job's tasks/environment, or the provision/change of equipment.
The Government published ‘The disability and health employment strategy: the discussion so far' on 17 December 2013. This paper sets out a range of proposals to further improve our employment support for disabled people and those with health conditions.
The Government recognises that getting the right support at the right time is particularly important for disabled people and those with a health condition so as part of our vision for future employment support we are developing a new Employment Gateway. This will be a light-touch process based on an individual's strengths and needs and will direct people to the most appropriate support.
In order to support individuals to stay in work where possible we are putting in place a new Health and Work Service (HWS). The HWS will provide occupational health advice and support for employees, employers and GPs to help individuals with a health condition to stay in or return to work.
The intention is to introduce the service by the end of 2014.