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Disabled People (Employment)

Volume 519: debated on Monday 22 November 2010

The Government are committed to increasing the employment rate for disabled people by giving them the help that they need to follow fulfilling, mainstream careers whenever possible. The Work programme will provide more personalised back-to-work support for unemployed people, including disabled people, from next year. Work Choice, which began on 15 October, provides specialised support for disabled people who face more complex barriers, and the access to work programme provides financial help with reasonable adjustments for the workplace above and beyond what the employer could reasonably provide.

Does the Minister agree that for far too many disabled young people, both in my constituency and elsewhere, the transition into adulthood and the jobs market can be very challenging? What steps are her Department taking to ease the process into adulthood and jobs?

The transition from education to work can be difficult for all young people, but particularly for disabled people. I am impressed by the work that has already been done by employers whom I have visited in recent months, who are already focusing on the importance of disabled young people in their work forces, but the specific support that the Government have provided through Work Choice and the Work programme will help—particularly the differential pricing that is available through the Work programme, which will enable more organisations to work with disabled young people to get them into work.

My constituent Nigel Freeman has suffered a very aggressive bout of cancer, and his best efforts to re-enter the world of work have been frustrated by the operation of the benefits system. Can my hon. Friend assure me that she will end the “one size fits all” approach to health conditions, so that people no longer find themselves trapped on benefits?

My hon. Friend has raised a subject about which we are all eager to hear—people who are committed to returning to work despite very difficult personal circumstances. Under the Work programme, we shall be able to provide more personal and individual back-to-work support for those who face more significant barriers. We want to provide a system of Government support that treats people in a dignified way and assesses them for what they can do, not for what they cannot.

I welcome Government moves to help those who can work to get back into work and off incapacity benefit, but how will the Minister use the expertise of existing disability organisations such as One Voice in my constituency, which is run by the disabled for the disabled, so that we can begin to end the present waste of talent?

Local user organisations have a vital role to play in providing that sort of grass-roots support, and the Shaw Trust and other organisations are already bringing their expertise into play in Work Choice. Several of them will also be involved in making the Work programme available next year.

May I draw the Minister’s attention to the case of Mr Spivack in my constituency, who is autistic and relies on his mobility scooter? Is it not fatuous of her to suggest that she is keen to help the disabled into employment if she is withdrawing the means for them to get to work?

I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the support his constituent will need in order to get to work will be available through either his disability living allowance or access to work. There are clear opportunities for his constituent to get the support he needs.

How do the Government believe that removing the mobility component of DLA for people living in residential care homes helps disabled people back into work, or enables disabled people who—like a number of my constituents who came to see me in my surgery last week—currently depend on their mobility allowance to get to and from work, to stay in work?

The hon. Lady is right to be concerned that constituents of hers should be able to get to work, and that is why we have support in place for those not in residential care through DLA and also through access to work. That is an important programme that helps many thousands of people get into employment, and we will be supporting more people into employment through access to work this year than last year.

The Government have stated their intention to reduce the number of people on incapacity benefit in order to reduce the welfare bill, but some of us were concerned that the tests the previous Government applied for incapacity benefit were already very strict. What checks and balances will the Minister put in place to ensure that people with severe disability are not impoverished by stricter guidelines for staff conducting assessments of those on incapacity benefit?

Obviously, this is a situation that we inherited, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will soon bring forward proposals to address just the sort of issue the hon. Gentleman raises. I am very aware of the fact that we need to make sure we have an assessment process that identifies people’s real needs for support, and I know that my right hon. Friend is committed to that too.