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House of Commons Hansard
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Disability Employment Gap
11 July 2016
Volume 613
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8. What steps he is taking to support people with disabilities and health conditions who are looking for work. [905757]

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15. What steps he is taking to support people with disabilities and health conditions who are looking for work. [905764]

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16. What steps he is taking to support people with disabilities and health conditions who are looking for work. [905765]

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This Government are committed to halving the disability employment gap. In the spending review we announced a real-terms spending increase on supporting disabled people into work. In the past two years, 365,000 disabled people have entered employment. Our forthcoming Green Paper will set out our plans to support more disabled people into work.

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Over 99% of vat-registered enterprises in my constituency are small and medium-sized enterprises. Will my hon. Friend update the House on what he is doing to help smaller businesses get the support they need to recruit people with disabilities and health conditions?

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As someone who owned a small business for 10 years, I absolutely understand that point. We currently have three successful pilots, concentrating on a small employer offer and matching up those with a disability to the 45% of jobs that are available through SMEs.

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Britain has an astonishing 30% gap between disabled and non-disabled people in work. What steps are being taken to ensure that disabled people are afforded the same professional opportunities as those without disabilities?

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The Government are committed to halving the disability employment gap. We are ensuring that disabled people have the skills and confidence to enter work through a named coach in universal credit and we are upskilling our Jobcentre Plus staff and our employment support programmes. We also recognise that we need to create opportunities, so we are working with businesses through the Access to Work programme, the Disability Confident campaign, the small employer offer, and our reverse jobs fairs.

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I recently attended a celebration at Petroc college in North Devon to thank employers and congratulate the students who took part in the successful supported internship programme, which provides valuable work experience for young people with additional needs. Will the Minister join me in congratulating everyone concerned? Does he agree that such schemes play an important part in the Government’s policy of bringing people with disabilities closer to employment?

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I pay tribute to my hon. Friend because I had the pleasure of meeting the students and staff at Petroc at his own reverse jobs fair, where he took a proactive approach to linking employers with the greater opportunities provided by organisations such as Petroc.

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This has been mentioned previously but it did not get an adequate response. Given that the prominent Brexit campaign called for a bonfire of EU protections for workers, what guarantee can the Minister give that all the current protections extended to disabled people by our membership of the EU will be safe?

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This Government have a proud record on this issue. We spend over £50 billion a year supporting people with disabilities and long-term health conditions—up £2 billion since the previous Parliament—and will continue to work in this area.