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National Disability Strategy

Volume 705: debated on Monday 13 December 2021

11. What steps she is taking with Cabinet colleagues to ensure cross-Government delivery of the national disability strategy. (904710)

The entire Government are committed to transforming the everyday lives of disabled people through the national disability strategy because we want to build back better and fairer. A number of commitments have already been delivered. I chair quarterly meetings with the ministerial disability champions to drive progress.

Increasing employment opportunities is key to supporting independent living for disabled people and people with health conditions. Will the Minister reaffirm our commitment to supporting 1 million disabled people into work by 2027?

I certainly will. The Government remain absolutely committed to that. There is more to do but progress has been made since 2017. The number of disabled people in employment has increased by 850,000, and the disability employment gap has closed by about five percentage points since 2013.

I suppose, looking at it favourably, at least the long-promised strategy is now published, but the failure to co-produce the strategy with disabled people or disabled people’s organisations is unfortunate. What does the Minister say to people with disabilities and their organisations who have been left disappointed at what they call a “tokenistic” strategy?

The exercise leading up to the publication of that strategy was one of the biggest listening exercises ever undertaken with disabled people by Government. I am proud of it and proud of the result that has been published. It is my personal priority to implement it and to continue listening to disabled people and disabled people’s organisations. Indeed, there is a commitment, and several others through the strategy, to do more of precisely that.

I commend the Minister for driving forward the national disability strategy with a real zest. My inspirational constituent Becky Maddern of the Benjamin’s Smile charity champions accessible play parks for families up and down the country, which became a key commitment in the national disability strategy. Will the Minister reconfirm that this will remain a key priority for her in her cross-Government work?

I certainly will. I pay tribute to Becky Maddern, who I too find inspirational. Indeed, I was thinking about her only at the weekend as I visited a playground with my own children and looked at the range of swings and equipment that was available. This is incredibly important because disabled children deserve to play as much as their brothers, sisters and friends. That underlines why our strategy is a very wide-ranging one that goes across the full range of public services and into culture, leisure and play as well, because it all matters greatly.

One hidden disability often is an acquired brain injury, and 10 days ago, the Government committed to creating a national strategy for acquired brain injury. Will this Department ensure that it fully co-operates with the programme board, which will be set up in the new year, so that we can radically transform the opportunities and chances in life for those who have had an acquired brain injury?

I am very grateful for that question, and I pay tribute to the history that the hon. Member has and the work that he is doing in this area. Two Ministers in this Department have some personal direct experience of these issues, so yes, the Department for Work and Pensions will be keen to make good progress with that work.