Supporting People with Disabilities and Health Conditions

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd July 2018.

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Photo of Simon Clarke Simon Clarke Conservative, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland 12:00 am, 2nd July 2018

How much her Department has spent on supporting people with disabilities and health conditions in the last 12 months; and what the change in that amount has been in real terms since 2010.

Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

In 2017-18, the Department for Work and Pensions spent £51.9 billion on benefits to support disabled people and people with health conditions. This year it is forecast to rise to £54 billion, £9.3 billion more in real terms than in 2010-11. Spending on the main disability benefits—PIP, DLA and attendance allowance—has risen by over £5 billion since 2010 and is at a record high this year.

Photo of Simon Clarke Simon Clarke Conservative, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland

I thank the Minister for her answer. Will she join me in congratulating the East Cleveland employment and training hub in Skinningrove, which opened in February and has done brilliant work for a number of my constituents, including those with the health and disability issues to which my question refers?

Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

My hon. Friend is a real champion for all his constituents, and I am pleased to join him in praising the work of the East Cleveland employment and training hub, which I understand plays a pivotal role in the community in enabling people to be supported into employment and is particularly valuable for those people who recently lost their jobs at the local potash mine.

Photo of Christine Jardine Christine Jardine Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland)

My constituent Alexandra Mitchell is unable to walk without heavy metal callipers. She cannot use her feet to drive and has hand controls in the Motability car she now stands to lose because her PIP assessment says that if she can drive, she must be able to walk. Does the Minister accept that this example, and those we have heard from other hon. Members, calls into question the quality of PIP assessments? Does she accept that the system is flawed and needs to be sorted?

Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

One experience of poor customer service is one too many, and of course I will meet her.

I also want to point out what Kate from the west midlands said, again on “You and Yours”: “My 35-year-old daughter has a learning disability. She doesn’t read or write, so I filled in the form for her. From her point of view, it turned out to be a very good experience because when she was on DLA she was on the lower rate but, because of the new criteria, she is now on the higher rate and has a mobility car. So from our point of view, it’s been really positive.”

Photo of Marsha de Cordova Marsha de Cordova Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Disabled People)

The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities carried out a robust inquiry into the effects of the Government’s policies, including social security, on disabled people. It found “grave and systematic violations” of disabled people’s rights. The Minister recently said that she is

“utterly committed to the convention.”—[Official Report, 20 June 2018;
Vol. 643, c. 124WH.]

When the Government respond to the report later this summer, will she finally commit to carrying out a cumulative impact assessment of the Government’s policies, as recommended by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?

Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

We were very disappointed that, when it came to the UK, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities did not take into consideration the great deal of evidence that was provided. When I make my very full response, I am sure I will set the record straight so that the committee understands that we are very proud to be a world-leading country in supporting people with disabilities to fulfil their potential in society.

Of course we are always determined to do more, and we do an equality impact assessment every single time there is any sort of policy change.

Photo of Marsha de Cordova Marsha de Cordova Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Disabled People)

We know an impact assessment of the social security policies can be carried out, because the Equality and Human Rights Commission has done so. Is it not the truth that the Government will not do this because they are afraid that an impact assessment will confirm what the UN, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and disabled people say, which is that this Government’s policies have created a hostile environment that is causing grave violations against disabled people?

Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

I can assure the hon. Lady that that is simply not the case. We have very strong protections for people with disabilities in our country, not the least of which is the Equality Act 2010. I make sure that impact assessments are done on all policies that are undertaken. I honestly ask all Opposition Members not to use this language of “a hostile environment”, as it is simply not the case and as the very people who need all of our support are put off seeking it and coming forward. I ask Opposition Members to stop saying things they know are not true.