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Disabled People (Equality)

Volume 527: debated on Thursday 5 May 2011

2. What recent steps she has taken to advance equality for people with disabilities; and if she will make a statement. (54181)

Most of the Equality Act 2010 came into force last October. It contains additional protections for disabled people, providing a strong framework for equality. However, this issue is not just about legislation; it is about improving attitudes too. We are addressing it through, for example, our work on the 2012 games legacy commitment, the introduction of the right to control and proposals for additional support for disabled people who want to take up elected office, as well as by removing the barriers that disabled people, including veterans, face in accessing the services and support that they need.

The hon. Lady will therefore be aware of the disabilities faced by many veterans, both young and old. Can she tell the House what discussions she has had with the veterans Minister about ensuring that those brave men and women are not put at any disadvantage because of disabilities that are the result of their service to this country?

I know that the hon. Gentleman has a long-standing interest in this issue, and he is not afraid to speak out on it. We recognise the problems that veterans and their families face. That is why we have set up a covenant taskforce to find innovative solutions to the problems facing former service personnel and their families. That, coupled with the existing benefits available for veterans—including the war pensions scheme and the armed forces compensation scheme, as well as those benefits that are available to the broader public—will help in recognising what he rightly says is the great debt of gratitude that we owe to that important group of people.

Is it not an absolute farce that the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which is given taxpayers’ money to go round lecturing the rest of the country about equal pay for people with disabilities, itself pays non-disabled people more than people with disabilities?

My hon. Friend raises an important issue. It is vital that disabled people have a level playing field when it comes to pay and conditions, and I am sure that we will want to look into the point that he has raised.

The Minister will be aware that, next week, members of the hardest hit coalition will be lobbying their MPs. Richard Hawkes, the chief executive of the disability charity Scope, has said:

“The government has not delivered on its promise to support disabled people into work, penalising those on ESA and jobseekers’ allowance who have worked and paid national insurance in the past and who now cannot rely on getting the support they need when they need it, in an increasingly difficult employment market. Disabled people and their families do not have ‘broad shoulders’, so why are they bearing the brunt of these cuts?”

Does she think that cutting the support to help disabled people to find work will promote equality for disabled people?

I think I need to take issue with the hon. Lady’s statement about the number of disabled people who are getting into work. More people now have access to schemes such as access to work, which provides invaluable support for disabled people to get into employment, and the Government have already launched the Work Choice programme, which gives specific support to severely disabled people. That, coupled with the work by the Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) on the Work programme, represents an admirable package of support for disabled people, although we will of course strive to do better.