The Pathways To Work scheme to help people on incapacity benefits to return to work will be extended to a third of all claimants in less than two years, the Government has announced.
Work and pensions secretary Alan Johnson said 900,000 people would fall under the scheme by October 2006.
Under Pathways To Work, new claimants will attend compulsory work-focused interviews with personal advisers, be able to access NHS rehabilitation support and may be eligible for a £40-a-week return-to-work credit.
Johnson said: “The expansion will cover the most disadvantaged areas with the greatest concentration of people on incapacity benefit – transforming lives by opening up opportunities.”
Eleven pilots have been launched since October 2003 and the areas covered by the new plans will be:
Phase 1 October 2005: Cumbria; Glasgow; Lanarkshire West; Tees Valley
Phase 2 April 2006: Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster; Sunderland; County Durham; Lanarkshire and East Dumbarton; Liverpool and Wirral; Manchester and Salford; Swansea and West Wales
Phase 3 October 2006: Eastern Valleys; Greater Mersey; Staffordshire.