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Disabled People: Support in Work

Volume 718: debated on Monday 11 July 2022

2. What steps she is taking with Cabinet colleagues to help ensure that disabled people are supported in work. (900971)

We are absolutely delighted to see 1.3 million more disabled people in work than in 2017, smashing our commitment of 1 million lives changed by 2027 five years early. We remain committed to reducing the disability employment gap and, over the next three years, we will invest £1.3 billion in employment support for disabled people and people with health conditions.

The UK has the highest levels of in-work poverty this century, which, as the Minister will know, disproportionately impacts groups facing higher living costs, such as disabled people. In the middle of this Tory man-made cost of living crisis, will she ensure that the UK Government’s health and disability White Paper addresses the suitability of the current statutory sick pay system, increase the Access to Work fund and end the payment cap, as well as create statutory timescales for the implementation of reasonable adjustments?

As is the hon. Member’s wont, she introduces a series of serious points, which I look forward to continuing to discuss with her here and in other places. I can confirm that we shall be bringing forward our health and disability benefits assessment White Paper, and I very much look forward to discussing the full breadth of the contents with her. I can also confirm that our goal is to help as many disabled people as possible and as appropriate to start, to stay and to succeed in work, because that is one way of being more resilient to economic crises. That is in addition to our extensive cost of living support.

The Government-commissioned National Centre for Social Research report confirms that many disabled people live in poverty. Ministers claim that work is a route out of poverty, yet the disability employment gap remains stubbornly at 28%. We have a bureaucratic Access to Work scheme, with an ineffective spending cap, which, ironically, is not available in all accessible formats. A mere £128 million is spent on it, compared with £64 billion on disability benefits. What does the Minister say to those disabled people who want to work, but who are faced with a system that, frankly, is not fit for purpose?

I think the hon. Member is wrong to say that the disability employment gap is static at 28%. It is moving in the right direction, which is important to acknowledge. While we have made progress, we need to be able to make more. It is important to recognise what has gone on, in that we have more disabled people in work and the disability employment gap is reducing. We need Access to Work to be a strong part of the solution. There is a great deal of work going on to transform Access to Work to make it even more effective in helping disabled people to start, stay and succeed in work. Those will all be continued priorities of this Government and this Department.