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Disabled Persons

Volume 929: debated on Tuesday 29 March 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he has proposals to improve the employment prospects of those who are suffering from mental or physical disability.


asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the current level of unemployment amongst registered disabled workers; and what percentage of such workers this represents.


asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the latest figure of unemployment of registered disabled people; how this compares as a percentage with the national average; and if he will make a statement about Government policy for the employment of disabled people.

I am informed by the Manpower Services Commission that on 10th February, the latest date on which information is available, 77,951 registered disabled people were unemployed, representing 14·4 per cent. of the disabled persons register. The general unemployment rate was 5·9 per cent. I have nothing to add to the statement about the employment of disabled people which I made in reply to the hon. Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers) on 7th March.

In view of the large number of mentally and physically disabled people among the long-term unemployed, amounting to one-third of the overall total in my constituency, may I ask the Government to reconsider this matter? In particular, will they ensure that no training facilities for the mentally disabled are lost as a result of the transfer of training facilities from the Social Services Department to the Education Department?

The plight of the disabled who are unemployed for long periods is under active consideration. We hope to be able to do something about them soon. We shall certainly look into the point raised by the hon. Gentleman in the latter part of his supplementary question.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the best way to improve the employment prospects of disabled people is for Government Departments to mend their ways and to employ a reasonable number of disabled people? Is he aware that at present every Government Department, except two has less than 3 per cent. of disabled people on its staff?

I accept that an unsatisfactory situation is revealed by the figures that we published recently. The fact that we published those figures was a major step in the right direction. I have been in touch with my ministerial colleagues about this to ask them to review their procedures. I have also asked them to approach the nationalised industries, where appropriate, and I have written this week to the chairmen of all disablement advisory committees so that they can take local initiatives in the public and private sectors.

Will the hon. Gentleman accept that one of the most important factors in this respect is the ability of disabled people to get to and from their place of work? Is not the Government's decision to take away vehicles from disabled people a retrograde action? Will the Minister press the Secretary of State for Social Services to reconsider this decision?

I am conscious of this problem and have had discussions with my hon. Friend who is responsible for the disabled on the issue of travel to work. The Employment Services Agency's fares-to-work scheme is under active review. We hope to make improvements there. I would not want to mislead the House into thinking that that is a solution. There are other possibilities that we are examining. I shall press the views of the hon. Gentleman further.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that where there are severely handicapped people the DRO gets to the home very quickly and gives good advice? Is he aware that the suppliers of equipment supply quickly but that there is a three-months' administrative gap in his Department between examination and distribution? Will he please give his attention to that matter?

I shall certainly look at that. I think that that is probably a little unfair, as in many cases equipment is available but it requires special adaptation to suit special needs. However, in view of my hon. Friend's comments I shall examine the matter and give consideration to any point that he wants to draw to my attention.