We have made significant progress to improve support and have seen the number of working age disabled people in employment increased by over 1 million in the last six years. However, we continue to focus on improving our services for those who use them. This includes the current consultation on measures aimed at reducing ill health-related job losses.
My hon. Friend is right to highlight this very important area and I am very proud that I helped to champion disability apprenticeships. Through the Access to Work scheme, which is now seeing record numbers benefiting, we saw a 34% increase in 16 to 24-year-olds using it, opening up more opportunities for employment.
The catalogue of the Department for Work and Pensions’ own failings has created a hostile environment for disabled people. Figures released this year show that almost 6,000 people died within six months of being found fit for work. The announcement of the new independent serious case panel lacks any meaningful detail, terms of reference or purpose. Will the Minister confirm whether the new panel will review previous social security benefit deaths, and will he set out what the statement of purpose is for the new independent panel?
We work all year round with claimants, stakeholders and charities—organisations with real-life experience—to help to improve not only the training but the understanding of all areas of disability and health conditions. We back that with genuine financial support. The Government now spend £55 billion a year, 2.5% of all Government spending and 6% of GDP—a record high, at £9 billion in real terms, to support people with disabilities.