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Disability and Health Employment Strategy

Volume 572: debated on Tuesday 17 December 2013

Later today we will publish the Command Paper Cm 8763 “The disability and health employment strategy: the discussion so far”.

There are 11.5 million working-age people in Great Britain with a long-term health condition. More than half—6.5 million—are classified as disabled under the Equality Act 2010, because they have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

At any one time, some of these people will be unable to work, and we will continue to provide them with financial support. However, many disabled people and people with health conditions can and do work, and the employment aspirations of too many people remain unfulfilled. A number of factors contribute to this loss of potential, for example: entrenched beliefs about what individuals are capable of; an employment support that does not always meet people’s individual needs; and an inflexible benefits system.

This Government are already doing much to tackle these issues, including:

the implementation of many of the recommendations in “Getting In, Staying In, Getting On” has focused resources on tailored, personalised support for individuals, rather than on “one-size-fits-all” institutions and programmes;

our work to enable disabled people to fulfil their potential and have opportunities to play a full role in society through the fulfilling potential strategy series;

the introduction of universal credit, which aims to ensure work always pays;

the introduction of personal independence payment, a new disability benefit designed to better reflect today’s understanding of disability and deliver a benefit that is fairer, more transparent and sustainable;

the first national disability employment conference in July 2013, at which the Prime Minister launched our two-year disability confident campaign, working with employers to increase the employment of disabled people, and now including a series of regional events;

the development of a new mental health and employment resource pack to improve the employment support that Jobcentre Plus provides for individuals with mental health issues; and

the development of the Health and Work Service, as recommended by the sickness absence review. The service is due to start in 2014 and will support individuals with health conditions or impairments to stay in work.

However, we are determined to do more to enable disabled people and people with health conditions to get into, stay in and progress in work. This paper is the next important step in developing our approach and widening our focus. To do this, we need to concentrate on the skills, capabilities and aspirations of all individuals, offering the right support, early on, to those who need it. We need to focus on employers, so they are confident and able to employ and retain disabled people and people with health conditions. We need to ensure that all disabled people and people with health conditions can make a smooth transition from education to work.

In this paper, we set out a range of proposals to further improve our employment support, both for disabled people and for people with health conditions who do not consider themselves to be disabled. This will be followed next year by a further paper setting out our delivery plan.