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Unemployed Disabled People

Volume 589: debated on Monday 8 December 2014

13. What steps he is taking to help unemployed adults with disabilities to secure and sustain employment or self-employment. (906485)

The Government have published today a paper called “Disability Confident Britain” about some of our programmes. I know that brandishing documents here is generally deprecated, but because this is a copy of the House magazine of 28 November, I draw the attention of hon. Members to page 42, which featured an article about “Disability Confident Britain” and about the excellent event I attended in Gloucester hosted by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham). I urge all hon. Members who have not already done so to hold such events in their own parliamentary constituencies.

The Minister will be aware of the excellent work done by the Royal National College for the Blind, which is based in Hereford, with blind and partially sighted people from all over the country. It has struggled in recent years with a series of annual contracts for residential training. Will the Minister provide a clear date by which a long-term solution will be in place?

I am familiar with this issue. We set out in the paper published today the fact that we have extended the contracts until next September. I am making every effort to make sure that we can announce a long-term solution before the general election next year, so that those colleges can have some confidence in the future. My hon. Friend can give my assurance to the college principal that I will strain every sinew to do so and will keep him fully informed.

Figures show that the Work programme is performing very badly when it comes to helping disabled people into work. Why are its contracts being extended for another year even though it is clearly not doing the job it was intended to do?

As the hon. Lady will see if she looks at the latest figures, the programme’s performance has improved considerably—indeed, it has been more successful than previous programmes—and Work Choice is also performing very well. I think that she should have a little more confidence. The document that I published today refers to a range of programmes initiated by Departments whose spending we have protected, at a time when difficult decisions are having to be made across Government to deal with the deficit.