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Helping People into Work

Volume 724: debated on Monday 5 December 2022

24. What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of his Department's policies in helping people into work. (902596)

I have visited around 50 jobcentres, and this is an opportunity for me to thank the many disability employment advisers who do a fantastic job ensuring that we get disabled people into work. That figure is up 2 million since 2013, with nearly 5 million disabled people in work at the moment.

One of the great accomplishments of the Down Syndrome Act 2022, brought in by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox), was to affirm the great potential of people with Down’s syndrome if they just have the right support. So can my hon. Friend outline what steps the Department is taking to support those with Down’s syndrome into work, to ensure that everyone who wants to work has the opportunity to do so?

My hon. Friend is right that this is a landmark piece of legislation, and I praise him for raising it today. I pay similar tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox).

A range of Government initiatives are supporting those with Down’s syndrome to start, stay and succeed in work, including through increased work coach support. Disability employment advisers across the country have been tasked with tackling this precise problem, to enable people with Down’s syndrome to progress in work.

Twenty-one per cent. of those aged between 16 and 64 are currently not in work or seeking work, at a time when the British Chambers of Commerce estimates there are 1.2 million unfilled jobs in the economy. What steps is the Department taking to ensure that those who are not in full-time education, and who might be a bit shy about coming back into the workplace, take steps to do so?

There is far too much for me to outline at the Dispatch Box, but I will write to my hon. Friend. I will also visit him in Orpington to set out in more detail the various things we are doing to tackle the vacancy list on many levels. He will be aware that the labour market has recovered strongly since 2020, with payroll employment up on pre-pandemic levels, but we accept there is more to do.