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Support for Disabled People: Covid-19

Volume 680: debated on Monday 14 September 2020

My Department has supported disabled customers during the covid outbreak by automatically extending existing personal independence payment awards and new flexible access to work support for people to work from home as well as in the workplace and ensuring that disabled people can access new support, including kickstart.

We are heading into an important 12 months for policy development to help disabled people with the Government’s new national disability strategy. Many charities in my constituency in Beaconsfield and across Bucks are very keen to give feedback to this strategy. Can my hon. Friend reassure the House that he is meeting stakeholders from a diverse range of backgrounds to ensure the development of a disability policy that is inclusive to everyone?

For both the Green Paper and the national strategy for disabled people, we will be making sure that disabled people, disabled organisations and stakeholders are very much at the heart of shaping our future policies and service delivery.

We will be organising national, regional and local-led events and events in conjunction with stakeholders. I know that my hon. Friend is a strong advocate of her disability organisations in her constituency, and I encourage her to encourage them to take part in the coming months.

This Government have spoken a lot about levelling up so that people are equally supported—something that people expect to be delivered. I asked the Minister on 11 May and then on 29 June how the Government were progressing with uplifting legacy benefits. As of February this year, 1.9 million people in Great Britain, many of whom are disabled, are desperate for the Government to sort this. A DWP report states that it would take four to five months to deliver this. We are now four months on. Can the Minister update us on any progress made, specifically on uplifting legacy benefits?

As a Government, we have provided an extra £9.3 billion-worth of support during the covid crisis, which has been very much welcomed. Specifically, in my area of disability, we will see spending increase this year from £19 billion to £20 billion, which is just shy of a 5% increase, and many disabled people will gain from the additional support provided through universal credit, through the increases in the discretionary housing payment, or through the £500 million given to local authorities as a hardship fund based on individual circumstances.

But the UK Government’s decision to exclude people claiming legacy benefits from the £20 per week covid uplift to universal credit, many of whom are sick or disabled people and carers, is surely untenable. Nearly 300,000 people in Scotland are missing out on the £20 per week increase as a result. Does the Minister agree that people on legacy benefits deserve the same amount of support as everybody else; and if he does, will he put his money where his mouth is and push the Chancellor to extend the uplift and make it permanent at the upcoming Budget?

The Government are putting money where their mouth is with the £9.3 billion-worth of support, which is pretty much unprecedented across the world. I would urge all claimants, disabled or not, to talk to their work coaches and review their circumstances to see whether they could be better off moving over to universal credit. But as I set out in the previous answer, there has been a wide range of support, and as a Government we will always target support at those most in need.