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House of Commons Hansard
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Disabled People: Recruitment and Retention
21 November 2016
Volume 617
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3. What steps the Government are taking to ensure that employers are supported in recruiting and retaining disabled people. [907333]

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15. What steps the Government are taking to ensure that employers are supported in recruiting and retaining disabled people. [907345]

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18. What steps the Government are taking to ensure that employers are supported in recruiting and retaining disabled people. [907348]

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We already support employers through the new Disability Confident scheme, Access to Work and the Fit for Work service. Other measures are planned. The Green Paper consultation will provide further insight into how we can support employers and their disabled employees.

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What advice can my hon. Friend offer to people such as my constituent Jehanzaib Sabih, who is deaf, so struggles to speak on the telephone, worked hard to obtain a university degree and yet is really struggling to find employment in the financial sector?

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A lot of our bespoke expertise lies in the partner organisations we work with. If my hon. Friend contacts Sarah Holtham, who is the work coach at the Northampton jobcentre, she will facilitate a meeting with Deafconnect for him and his constituent. It also does a huge amount of work getting placements in the financial services sector, in particular with Nationwide, whose headquarters are in his constituency.

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Following numerous successful Disability Confident events, we launched the small employer offer directly to engage, encourage and signpost new employers to take advantage of this often overlooked wealth of talent. Will the Minister update the House on the progress of this vital pilot?

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As part of the small employer offer, we will introduce over 100 employment advisers to small employers, and the feedback we have had is that that is very welcome—in particular, for organisations that do not have their own human resources departments.

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Recalling the very happy days when my hon. Friend was training for her diving competition in Southend, will she join me in congratulating Southend Adult Community College and Poundland on leading the way in employing disabled people in Southend?

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I am familiar not only with the diving boards at Southend but with that excellent college, which has done many things well, including understanding that the built environment has a huge, positive role to play in ensuring that people with profound and multiple physical and learning disabilities can achieve their full potential.

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Very many individuals who previously received disability living allowance and who now receive personal independence payments are prevented from travelling to work—their Motability vehicles are being taken away because they do not qualify for the higher rate mobility component. This is a serious issue for people who are working, want to work and for whom the Government are making things more difficult. What is the Minister going to do about it?

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I would point out that more people now have access to Motability than before, but I understand the problems that the hon. Gentleman raises, and we are looking at this in the Department.

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May I put on record congratulations to Andy Murray on his magnificent achievement and also congratulate his brother, Jamie Murray, who will end the year as doubles world No. 1? What Scotland lacks in football prowess, we more than make up for in tennis, and we are immensely proud of both Murray brothers.

Last week, Members on both sides of the House made it clear to Ministers that cutting employment and support allowance for those who are in the work-related activity group by nearly £30 a week, with corresponding cuts to universal credit, is not acceptable when the Government are still consulting on their Green Paper on closing the disability employment gap and do not have adequate support in place. Has the Minister discussed the outcome of last week’s debate with the Chancellor ahead of the autumn statement and impressed on him the need to postpone these punitive cuts?

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I point out to the hon. Lady that the support that needs to be in place for those members of WRAG will be in place, and I gave the detail of exactly when that would be in place—before new claims come online—but I must stress that, as well as enabling people to endure and cope with such situations and the associated costs of living, we have an obligation to help them to get out of those situations. I have given assurances to the House that we will do both.

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The loss of the limited capability for work element of universal credit will mean that thousands of working disabled people will be about £1,500 a year worse off. Does the Minister think that slashing the incomes of working disabled people sends the right message about the Government’s commitment to those who are just about managing?

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We are spending more money on disability benefits, and we are doing more in terms of support, so I do not recognise the position that the hon. Lady outlines.

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23. The evidence is clear that work can be good for people’s health and particularly their mental health. Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government should be working with GPs and healthcare professionals to support people with mental health issues to stay in work or to get back into work as soon as possible after leaving employment? [907354]

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Yes, I do, which is why we have brought forward a Green Paper, and we will be consulting on it until February. In the meantime, where we can make progress and foster the local connections and relationships between employment support and healthcare professionals and others those individuals will need support from, we will do so, and the flexible support fund, which goes live in December, will do that.

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On behalf of Labour, I offer my congratulations to Andy Murray.

The prospect of a further £1,500-a-year cut in support to sick and disabled people found not fit for work, on top of the previous £28 billion of cuts, fills many with dread. Why is the Secretary of State touting the propaganda that the cut will incentivise disabled people to find work, when his Department’s own research says the opposite? Will he listen to MPs on both sides of the House who unanimously rejected his policy last Thursday, and stop the cut in the autumn statement?

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As I pointed out at length, we will mitigate the financial cut to the WRAG group through several measures, including the flexible support fund, which will help with costs related directly to work, and through other measures to help with costs not directly related to getting into work. I have stated to the hon. Lady several times in the last week that we have to do both those things. We need to ensure someone’s liquidity and financial resilience, but we must also ensure that they have other kinds of support. We will not pause that support when it commences in April.