I refer my hon. Friends to the answer I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch) earlier.
Many charities and voluntary organisations act as a mainstay for many people with long-term disabilities who are unable to work. Near my constituency, the superb Vassall centre and the excellent disability action group come to mind. What measures will my hon. Friend take to empower those organisations to have a greater say and play a greater role in supporting those with disabilities?
I thank my hon. Friend for his question. He is right that the Vassall centre plays a pivotal role in Gloucestershire in bringing together many different organisations, which provide support for some of the disabled people most in need of it. As I said previously, the Work programme will offer such organisations the opportunity to bring local expertise and knowledge to supporting disabled people into employment or in other ways. I also hope that, through other specialist programmes, we can continue to harness that expertise.
As the Under-Secretary knows, many people with disabilities depend heavily on carers. During a visit in carers week to the Oxfordshire carers forum, it became abundantly obvious that, despite the drunken spending spree to which the Secretary of State referred, carers remain chronically under-supported. Will the Under-Secretary please comment on the Government’s plans to improve support for carers and to reduce the bureaucracy, which too often prevents them from accessing the help that is available?
I am also delighted to support in carers week the work that carers do. I am particularly looking forward to visiting Barnet carers centre on Thursday as part of that. Obviously, carers receive benefits through carer’s allowance, and important support through Jobcentre Plus in partnership management. However, I reassure my hon. Friend that the Government are committed to widening the support available to family carers, and will establish an independent commission on funding long-term care this year.
Conservative Members are right to highlight the work of voluntary groups in supporting disabled people. Is the Under-Secretary also aware of organisations such as Pedal Power in my constituency, a voluntary group that works with disabled people, which recently relied heavily on the future jobs fund for support for its work? What estimate has she made of the impact of the decision to cut the future jobs fund on the very organisations that she thinks can help build a big society?
If the hon. Gentleman had listened to some of the earlier exchanges, he would have known that we feel strongly that we need to have proper, long-term jobs in place. We will achieve that better through our apprenticeship announcements than through the future jobs fund. However, it is important that organisations such as Pedal Power—which, I am sure, supports disabled people in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency—get the support that they need. I am happy to talk to him about that if he has concerns.
On the subject of carers week, will the Under-Secretary assure us that carer’s premium will be protected for those who are unable to find work or need support to stay in work as a result of looking after severely disabled relatives?