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Disabled Entrepreneurs

Volume 647: debated on Monday 15 October 2018

Will you indulge me for a moment, Mr Speaker, to allow me to congratulate my fellow Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the hon. Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson), on his wedding at the weekend? Some eyes may have been observing events in Windsor; others of us were viewing events in Swindon.

Let me turn now to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Rachel Maclean). Disabled people are more likely than others to be self-employed. Access to Work now has specialist self-employment teams to help disabled entrepreneurs, and the new enterprise allowance schemes help anyone who is claiming eligible benefits to move into self-employment.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer and join her in congratulating my hon. Friend on his recent wedding.

Disabled people can benefit from self-employment because it provides much-needed flexibility in the workplace. To that end, there is a group in my constituency called Disability Support Project. Will the Secretary of State congratulate it on its recent launch and look at what more can be done to enable other such organisations to offer employment advice?

I will, indeed, congratulate and thank the Disability Support Group in Redditch for its excellent work and for what it does. I also congratulate and thank my hon. Friend for all that she does in assisting disabled people into work and for so passionately pursuing this cause. There is more that we can do. I know that she visited her jobcentre to see how we are working with charities and organisations. I can also assure her that we have never spent more supporting people with disabilities and health conditions—it is now £54 billion a year, up £9 billion since 2010.

Is the Secretary of State aware of the neuro-diverse person who wants to become an entrepreneur and of the people with autism and the people on the autistic spectrum who want to get apprenticeships? Is it not a fact that the inability to get basic GCSE maths and English is a barrier to anyone getting an apprenticeship that will lead to entrepreneurship? What can she do to open up that pathway?

The hon. Gentleman raises a good point: how do we support disabled people. As I have said, we are supporting more through Access to Work and through other support groups. We have also given easements to make it easier for disabled people, because it really is important that they do internships, apprenticeships, and work experience.

One of the very best ways of helping disabled entrepreneurs, and indeed all disabled people who are looking for work, is to get them access to the best assistive technology that can help them when they are in the workplace and also give them confidence while they are looking for that work. What steps is the Secretary of State taking to ensure that disabled people have those opportunities?

My hon. Friend is correct in what he says: we should be using technology even more. We should be making sure that it does assist disabled people. To that end, we are doing more through Access to Work and we should continue on that path.

The disability employment gap in my constituency is, at 37%, higher than the national average. What message does the Secretary of State have for disabled people in my constituency who want to work and who are not getting the support that they need?

The hon. Gentleman is correct: there is a big disability gap in employment rates. That has come down, but we need it to come down even further. We have pledged to get 1 million more disabled people into work by 2027. Between 2013 and 2017, there were 600,000 more disabled people in work, but there is always more that we can do.