7. What assessment she has made of the effects of Government policies on disabled people’s access to work. (907735)
Over 3 million working-age disabled people are now in employment. There are 141,000 more disabled people in work than a year ago, and the employment rate has risen, demonstrating that disabled people are benefiting from the Government’s long-term economic plan.
In September last year, the Minister published statistics showing that only 206,000 of 529,400 personal independence payment applications had been cleared. When he published those statistics, he said:
“By the end of the year we expect that no-one will be waiting for an assessment for longer than 16 weeks.”
Yet when the updated figures were published in January, they did not include the number of those who had waited longer than 16 weeks. Will the Minister now ensure that those figures are published so we can see whether the anecdotal evidence we get from our constituents is correct?
I can confirm to the hon. Gentleman that I published statistics just ahead of my appearance at the Work and Pensions Select Committee. Last year, when I got this job, the average wait for a claimant was unacceptably high, at around 30 weeks. After sustained effort from my Department and our assessment providers, we had more than halved that by the end of the year. I am very pleased, and we will continue that focus.
Recent figures have shown that only 7% of disabled people on employment and support allowance gained sustained employment through the Government’s Work programme, which is worse than if there were no programme at all. In Sir Bert Massie’s report on the link between disability and poverty, he highly recommends replacing this clearly failing programme with one of locally controlled specialist support for disabled people. A Labour Government would commit to do this, so can the Minister tell us his Government’s position on this issue? If they do not believe that change is necessary, how can they justify those figures?
I do not need to justify those figures. If the hon. Lady had used more up-to-date figures, she would know that performance has significantly improved and that more people are being helped into work through the Work programme, work choice and access to work. Yes, more disabled people are being helped than before. As I said in response to an earlier question, 141,000 more disabled people are in work now than last year. I think that is a record to be proud of. There is more to do, but good progress is being made.