The Valuing People team have published a progress update on the Valuing People initiative. You can download from the Valuing People website. It promises that employment issues will be a priority for 2005 with actions including providing benefits advice in more accessible forms, advice on definitions of work, training and volunteering,
and help for public sector employers.

Stephen Ladyman has announced that £700,000 of the Learning Disabilities Development Fund (LDDF) will be used for individual budgets and self-directed services, self-advocate and family leadership; increasing employment opportunities and preventing people being sent to live away from home. Check with your Learning Disability Partnership Board for details.

More action to make it easier for people on incapacity benefit to return to work was announced in the Budget, as national statistics released show 22,000 people came off incapacity benefits last year.

Changes to "linking rules" announced in the Budget will mean someone on Incapacity Benefit will be able to return to the same benefit they were on if the job does not work out for up to two years. In further simplifying rules that remove disincentives to work, claimants will no longer have to wait six months before they can try out work again if they do have to go back on benefits.

Alan Johnson has announced that the Government will publish its radical plans to scrap Incapacity Benefit (IB) and replace it with a system focused on helping people into work this summer. His comments came as it was announced over 10,000 people on IB have been helped back to work since last year by the radical Pathways to Work programme.

The Government's Disability Employment Advisory Committee has published its first annual report. The report summarises the work undertaken in the first year of DEAC and hints at some of the action planned for next year. Further information about DEAC can be found at the DEAC website.

The Social Exclusion Unit has published an interim report looking at 16 to 25 year-olds with severe or multiple problems. It sets out the project team's interim findings and three areas of future work: We have identified three key areas for further work based on our emerging findings - age boundaries; holistic services and the trusted adult; and thinking and behaviour. The emerging findings will form the basis of the second phase of the project, together with more consultation with 16-25 year olds.

Equality Minister, Jacqui Smith, and Minister for the Cabinet Office, David Miliband, have announced a root and branch review to investigate the causes of persistent discrimination and inequality in British society. The Equalities Review, which will be chaired by Trevor Phillips and report to the Prime Minister by the summer of 2006, will:

  • investigate the social, economic, cultural and other factors that limit or deny people the opportunity to make the best of their abilities;

Mental health problems in teenagers have mushroomed over the past 25 years, according to a study from London’s Institute of Psychiatry. There have been “substantial” increases in the proportions of both children with conduct problems and those with emotional problems, affecting girls and boys, all social classes and all family types. The proportion with conduct problems more than doubled between 1974 and 1999 from 6.8 per cent to 14.9 percent, and the proportion with emotional problems jumped from 10.2 per cent to 16.9 per cent.

Services for people with learning disabilities are set to receive over £41 million in Government funding, Stephen Ladyman, Minister with responsibility for community care has announced. This boost in funding has been allocated to Primary Care Trusts to provide services through the Learning Disabilities Development Fund (LDDF) and is almost double the amount received last year.

Priority areas earmarked for funding in previous years have been:

  • Advocacy - developing and expanding services to support people to speak up,

The biggest change in incapacity benefits since they were created has been unveiled by Work and Pensions Secretary Alan Johnson in a bid to replace "sickness" culture with work focus. The reformed benefit aims to provide enhanced financial security for the most severely sick and disabled as well as more money than now for all those claimants who take part in work focused activity. Those who completely refuse to engage - failing even to attend interviews - will receive JobSeekers Allowance rates.