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Young Disabled People: Help into Work

Volume 641: debated on Monday 21 May 2018

I want to make it absolutely clear to the House that I want us all to be as ambitious for disabled young people as we are for all young people, enabling them to fulfil their potential. We have a range of programmes to support the journey to work, including the young persons supported work experience programme, tri-work supported work experience and supported internships and apprenticeships.

I am very grateful to the Minister for that answer. Apprenticeships have proved to be a huge success story in Corby and east Northamptonshire, so what steps are the Department taking to help to encourage young disabled people to take up those opportunities and ensure that they are accessible to all?

My hon. Friend is a doughty champion for his constituents and it is great to see the number of people with learning difficulties or a disability starting an apprenticeship—it rose to 22,100 this year, 150 of whom are from Corby, which was a rise of 40 people on the year before. We want more employers to offer apprenticeships for disabled youngsters. The Department for Education has made adjustments to the maths and English standards and Access to Work is available.

Would the Minister care to explain to my disabled constituent how new claim rules for Access to Work justify requiring confidential contracts of and employment information about the disabled person’s personal assistant, and how do those square with the general data protection regulation?

The hon. Lady raises a very specific case. Of course, I will be very pleased to look into that, but let us be clear: Access to Work is providing invaluable support. It is enabling many more people with disabilities to play their full part in our society, including work. We have recently made a number of changes that have been widely welcomed.

When I ask young disabled people, “If you were the Minister, what would be your No. 1 priority?”, the answer is always to have an opportunity to work and, for some, to run their own business. The NESTA innovative technology fund was one of the most exciting ways to support disabled entrepreneurs, through prize money and matching them up with mentors. Will the Minister do all that she can to help to reinstate this important opportunity?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend that we should be as ambitious for disabled people as we are for anyone else, and that includes enabling them to set up their own business. He raises a particularly important scheme, but there have been other innovations through the employment allowance and the support that is available through Access to Work. Indeed, Microsoft has just launched a fantastic new fund of £25 million to help with assistive technology and people setting up businesses.

What assessment has the Department made of the impact of the abolition of the independent living fund on disabled young people?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, responsibility for the independent living fund was given to local authorities, which are very well placed to join up services in their communities to the benefit of all disabled people, including young disabled people.