Skip to main content

Welfare Polices: Disabled People

Volume 616: debated on Thursday 27 October 2016

7. What assessment the Government have made of the effect on equality for disabled people of the Government’s policies on welfare. (906860)

The UK is recognised as a world leader in disabled rights and equality, and the Government continue to spend about £50 billion a year to support sick and disabled people. That is about 2.5% of GDP. According to OECD figures, that is more than is spent by other countries including Germany, France and the United States of America.

But we still have not seen the publication of the long-awaited Green Paper to map out what employment support will be made available for those with disabilities. Can the Minister provide an explanation for the continued delay? Does she agree that this does not look like the action of a Government who want to provide “an economy that works for everyone”?

As the hon. Gentleman will know, we will soon publish a Green Paper that will explore a whole range of options for long-term reform across different sectors. The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt), is working incredibly hard to ensure that that happens soon. We are going to target the factors that contribute to the disability employment gap and engage with disabled people, their representative organisations and a wide range of other stakeholders. There will be an opportunity for hon. Members to feed into that consultation process, and I urge the hon. Gentleman to do so.

Disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty as a result of their condition, and the situation has been made worse by this Government’s £28 billion social security cuts, which have affected 3.7 million disabled people since 2012. Sick and disabled people are also more likely to be hit by social security sanctions and forced to use food banks, as the film “I, Daniel Blake” so poignantly showed. Today’s report by Oxford University proves the link between the Government’s punitive sanctions and the rise in food bank use. What action are the Minister and her DWP colleagues taking to tackle these injustices, as the Prime Minister calls them?

This Government are committed to providing support to the people who need it, which is reflected in the fact that spending to support disabled people and people with health conditions will be higher than in 2010 in real terms in every year until 2020.

The hon. Lady mentions “I, Daniel Blake”. I have seen the film. My first visit as a Department for Work and Pensions Minister was to a jobcentre in Newcastle, and I can tell her that the front-line DWP workers whom I met do not recognise their portrayal in the film. The film raises important issues, which we shall debate, but we must remember that it is a dramatic interpretation. I also recognise none of its portrayals of DWP staff.