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Disabled People

Volume 621: debated on Monday 20 February 2017

14. What steps the Government are taking to ensure that employers are encouraged to recruit and retain disabled people. (908770)

In “Improving Lives: The Work, Health and Disability Green Paper”, we asked about the barriers preventing employers from recruiting and retaining disabled people and people with health conditions. We will shortly bring forward measures to address those barriers.

I am grateful to the Minister for her reply. I recently held an engagement event in Lowestoft in my constituency to consider the Green Paper. The conclusion reached was that the disability employment gap is best tackled with bespoke local solutions worked out with local employers. Will the Minister give this approach fair and full consideration as she assesses the feedback from the consultation?

First, I put on the record my thanks to my hon. Friend and Members of all parties in the House who have held local consultation events. Doing so was incredibly important and has made this a very good consultation, but it is also vital in establishing and building such local networks. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that the solutions have to be local ones, not least because healthcare is commissioned locally. I can give him reassurances that we will bear that in mind as we go forward.

The all-party group on human trafficking and modern slavery has heard compelling evidence about how people enslaved in the UK have post-traumatic stress disorder and similar serious disabilities as a result. Will the Minister commit to meeting the relevant Minister in the Home Office to look at practical ways in which those victims of exploitation can be supported into work and be enabled to work in companies?

The right hon. Lady raises an important point. I can give her assurances that both my office and that of the Minister for Employment are working very closely with the Home Office on precisely the group of individuals she mentions and other vulnerable people such as refugees. I am very happy to raise any points that she wants me to make.

I am holding a Disability Confident event in my constituency on 28 April. The Minister will be very welcome if she is able to find time in her busy schedule to join us. In the meantime, will she look at what incentives can be given to employers to give disabled people a chance to prove themselves and to show what they are capable of if they are just given that chance in the first place?

I thank my hon. Friend for holding a Disability Confident event. We are looking at what further support and, in some cases, incentives we can provide for employers. We need to raise the profile of the fact that these individuals have much to offer any business. We will be holding events in March in this place to enable all Members of all parties to become Disability Confident employers and to ask for their assistance in signing up 30 targeted organisations in their constituencies. I hope all Members will take that opportunity.

This question is highly relevant to what Members have been saying. I am sure that the Minister will agree that to change attitudes towards disability in the workforce, we need more businesses to become role models in this area. In Taunton, sadly, very few businesses have signed up to the disability awareness register. Will the Minister join me in encouraging local businesses to attend a special event to be staged by Taunton jobcentre on 13 March to promote the Disability Confident initiative?

I thank my hon. Friend for what she is doing in her constituency to promote the scheme. It is important that employers realise not only what opportunities are presented by employing these people, but the support and advice that go alongside it. The more people who know about that, the closer we will be to achieving the goal of ensuring that every citizen in this country can reach their full potential.