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Last Updated: Friday, 10 September, 2004, 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK
Poor take-up of disabled New Deal
Public sector workers
It remains difficult for disabled people to find work
Less than 2% of those eligible to join the New Deal for Disabled People have done so, the government has said.

The voluntary employment programme helps people with health conditions and disabilities get work.

Between July 2001 and November 2003, 67,983 people or 1.9% of those eligible had registered for the scheme.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said its findings reflected the significant barriers faced by disabled people in returning to work.

A spokesman for the DWP told BBC News Online that uptake had improved since this survey but the most recent figures are not publicly available.

This comes amid criticism that the government is not spending enough money on publicising the help available to disabled people and their prospective employers.

Younger workers

The DWP looked at the take-up during the first 18 months after nationwide roll-out began in July 2001.

It found those signing up for the scheme were more likely to be younger males, who had only been on incapacity benefit for a short period.

They were less likely to have a mental health condition and more likely to have musculo-skeletal problems.

WHAT IS THE 52-WEEK RULE?
If you start full time work of 16 hours or more, or a training course for which you receive a training allowance, you can go back to your old rate of Incapacity Benefit if you become sick during the next 52 weeks

About 32% of those who registered with the scheme gained paid work and of about 39% of those had found long-term jobs as a result of the scheme.

The programme is administered by 65 so-called "Job Brokers", a mix of public, private and voluntary sector organisations.

They support disabled people looking for work and provide training as well as ongoing support once people are in work.

Although uptake was low, the report suggested that the scheme had positive benefits on health and self-esteem.

One in four of those involved said that their involvement with a Job Broker had "helped improve their feelings of well-being and their self confidence," the report said.

Mis-perceptions

The Disability Alliance, which helps combat poverty among disabled people, said the government should extend the scheme, using more Job Brokers, and better publicise measures which reduce the fear of business costs associated with employing disabled staff.

For example, the government's Access to Work programme can help with up to 100% of the costs associated with employing disabled people for a period up to three years.

The Disability Alliance also said favourable benefit rules should be publicised, as they provide disabled people with a safety net should their new job not work out.

Under the "52-week rule", claimants, who move from incapacity benefit into work, can return to the previous level of benefits they were on if they are unable to remain in work for up to a year after starting that job.




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