March 2008

A consultation document has been published which sets out and seeks views on the proposals contained in the Sub-National Economic Development Regeneration (SNR) for putting in place reforms that would:

  • streamline the regional tier, introducing integrated strategies and giving the regional development agencies (RDAs) lead responsibility for regional planning
  • strengthen the local authority role in economic development, including a new statutory duty to assess local economic conditions, and
  • support collaboration by local authorities across economic areas

The Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) is inviting people to ‘have their say’ about the issues and problems associated with the current system for deciding who is eligible for council funding and support for social care services. In its State of Social Care 2006-07 report in January CSCI revealed that most councils now only help people with ‘substantial’ or ‘critical’ needs, leaving many needing help to fend for themselves or rely on friends and family for support.

Employ ability will roll out by region from March 2008 for 12 months. Local businesses that employ between 100 and 250 people will receive information packs and the chance to book a free How to Employ ability workshop. Advertising on road-side bill boards and features in local newspapers and trade journals will also spread the word about Employ ability. Minister for Disabled People Anne McGuire, launched Employ ability at the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce on 27 March 2008.

People who have had to stop working due to ill health will soon be able to get early assistance from the Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS), Pensions Minister Mike O’Brien has announced. Draft regulations will mean people who have to stop working early because of poor health will be able to get payments from the FAS up to five years before their scheme’s normal retirement age.

The Government has published research which summarises the findings from a study on people with mental health conditions who used Job Retention and Rehabilitation Pilot (JRRP) services. Apparently, they had a lower rate of return to work than those who did not use the service. Hypotheses for this include:

  • returns to work appear to have been delayed for the supported group for three reasons: a focus on the same employer where it may have been more productive to seek a new job; waiting for a more complete health recovery; and dependency on the Provider

Those people with the most disabling conditions will be given more financial support from the Government, while other disabled and long-term ill people who could work will get greater help to find employment, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions James Purnell has said. The announcement was made as regulations finalising plans to replace Incapacity Benefits (IB) in Great Britain for all new and repeat claimants with the new work-focused Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) were laid in Parliament today.

Equalities Minister, Harriet Harmon, has called for companies to be given the ability to favour recruitment of women and candidates from minority groups. She argues that radical changes are needed to help talented black and female candidates break through barriers in business and public life. The positive discrimination plan would apply only in cases where two equally qualified candidates were after the same post, allowing the employer to tip the balance in favour of the minority candidate on grounds of race or gender.

The use of prime providers doesn't seem such a surefire winner after all. DWP staff are busy reviewing contracts after a Pathways to Work prime provider, Carter and Carter, called in the administrators. It issued two profit warnings last year and has been unable to restructure its debts. It is thought that some of its provision such as Train 2 Gain had not been performing as well as hoped. Last month, Instant Muscle also went into administration leaving staff unpaid and contracted provision without a provider.

Gordon Brown has announced that the national minimum wage (NMW) will rise by more than the current rate of inflation later this year. The minimum hourly rate will rise from £5.52 to £5.73 with effect from October. The rate for 18-21 year olds will also increase from £4.60 to £4.77, while the 16-17 year old rate will rise from £3.40 to £3.53. More...

DWP have published research into the reasons why recent claimants have claimed Incapacity Benefit. Depression, stress, anxiety and musculoskeletal conditions continue to be the main reasons. Just over half of recent claimants had some connection with paid work immediately prior to their claim: 23 per cent had been in work and 33 per cent had been off sick from their job. Of those who had been working, 75 per cent were employees and 25 per cent were self-employed.