Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:51 pm on 17th November 2016.

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Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson Conservative, North Swindon 12:51 pm, 17th November 2016

I am running out of time, so I will try to wrap up. I have only two minutes left.

The Green Paper includes proposals for more personalised and tailored support, as well as quicker assessments. That is particularly important because 50% of people on ESA have a mental health condition, but typically wait nine months for an assessment. The Green Paper will address that by making sure that people are assessed quickly and given support before they navigate often difficult personal challenges when they take the step back into work.

There will be a place on the work and health programme or Work Choice for those who wish to take it—it is a voluntary opportunity. There will be additional places on the very popular specialist employment support programme. There will be job clubs run by peers—people with disabilities who have gone through the system and overcome their fear at the thought of going back into the process. That is often a big fear for people who have been out of work for a long time. There will be 200 new community partners; again, this is about utilising disability expertise. There will be increased access to work for young people with mental health conditions. There are further opportunities through the Disability Confident campaign.

My personal favourite, which I continue to champion, is the small employer offer. Time and time again, employers say to us, “We have skills gaps and we are struggling to find people to fill these roles,” but they have never thought to take on somebody with a disability because they lack the confidence to do so and do not realise that a huge amount of support is provided to help people to come into the workplace. Businesses that take that step benefit, more often than not, and I say that as a former employer who employed disabled people and benefited from doing so. I hope that the current small employer pilot will be expanded and will become a nationwide offer. It is making a significant difference.

The Chancellor was right to increase significantly the funding for Access to Work. On the fit for work scheme, we need to ensure that we provide advice at the beginning of a potential problem for people in work, not just at four weeks, because it is so much easier to keep people in work with suitable support than it is to get them back into work after they have dropped out. We have a fantastic ministerial team who are engaging with charities, with all their experience and knowledge, and the Green Paper represents a real opportunity.