We support disabled people to enter employment through initiatives such as the Work and Health programme, which is expected to support 220,000 disabled people over five years, the personal support package, and the new intensive personal employment support programme. Access to Work approved support for nearly 34,000 disabled workers last year, and we engage with employers through Disability Confident.
Employment prospects for young people with hidden disabilities or who are on an education, health and care plan are much lower than the mainstream average. Supported internships offer a way through, but the take-up from employers is painfully low. Given that the Department for Work and Pensions is responsible for overall targets, may I ask the Minister to work across the Government to ensure that we can use the apprenticeship levy to fund employers to enable them to take up more of these excellent opportunities?
My hon. Friend has been a real champion in pushing forward the opportunities created through supported internships and traineeships, and through our efforts to open up apprenticeships to those with learning disabilities. I will continue to work with the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to increase awareness among employers, and I very much welcome the fact that last year Access to Work saw a 28% increase in take-up for those aged between 16 and 24, in part because of the expansion of the supported internships.
Specsavers in Cheltenham has teamed up with the GEM project to recruit people with disabilities into the world of work, and the impact has been transformational, resulting in improvements in staff morale and in productivity. What more can the Government do to ensure that the message gets out that recruiting people with disabilities is good for the individuals themselves and good for society?
My hon. Friend has worked really hard to promote opportunities for employers in his constituency to employ people with disabilities. I welcome the fact that, over the past five years, this Government have seen an extra 930,000 more disabled people in work and that, for the first time ever, there are now more disabled people in work than not in work. The key is to give businesses the confidence to realise that they can benefit, and that this is a win-win for the disabled person and for the business.
My concern relates to the number of people who are dying after being found fit for work. Further to my letter to the Secretary of State, will she commit to publish the Department’s internal reviews of the cases of those who have died? Will she also commit to an independent inquiry? Will she ensure that if any evidence of wrongdoing by someone in public office is found, that information will be forwarded to the police?
This Government are committed to working with stakeholders and those with frontline experience to continue to make improvements. There have been two independent reviews of the work capability assessment, and we have accepted and implemented over 100 improvements. We will continue to do all that we can to improve the process for claimants.
All claimants should be advised at the beginning of the process that there are alternative methods of communication. I welcome the introduction of the Citizens Advice provision across the jobcentre network, which is an additional layer of independent support, particularly for vulnerable claimants who may find it difficult to access services.
May I welcome the Minister to his post? As the National Audit Office recently pointed out, the number of disabled people out of work has stagnated at 3.7 million during the past five years, because increases in the number of disabled people employed have not been matched by a decrease in the number of disabled people who are out of work. Under the Government’s flagship Disability Confident scheme, it is possible to be a Disability Confident employer without actually employing a single disabled person. Will the Minister now commit to independent evaluation of the effectiveness of that flagship scheme?
The Government have actually delivered an additional 930,000 job opportunities for disabled people over the past five years, and for the first time more disabled people are in work than out of work. The NAO also welcomed our joint work with the Department of Health and Social Care, particularly in the area of mental health. As for the Disability Confident scheme, I welcome the fact that 49% of the businesses that have signed up have said that it helped them to recruit at least one additional member of staff with either a disability or a long-term health condition.