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Economy and Jobs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:42 pm on 20th January 2020.

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Photo of Marsha de Cordova Marsha de Cordova Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Disabled People) 8:42 pm, 20th January 2020

No, she won’t.

When will the Government recognise that the Disability Confident scheme lacks any accountability? Will they follow Labour’s lead and place a requirement on all organisations with more than 250 employees to report annually on the number of disabled people they employ?

The Access to Work scheme is an essential form of employment support, but it remains one of the best-kept secrets, as only 43% of employers are aware of it. It is a good scheme from which I and many others have benefited, but the Government should try to promote it a bit more so that all employers are familiar with the scheme and can access it and benefit from it. The Access to Work scheme should be expanded to include disabled people who want to engage in work experience or volunteering opportunities. The Government could also follow Labour’s lead and introduce what is called a reasonable adjustment passport scheme, which would make it easier for disabled people to move from one job to another. It would be almost like portable support and would save money in the long run.

Let me move on to the assessment frameworks. The Government’s commitment to end the cruel reassessment for personal independence payments falls short of the systematic changes that are needed to social security assessments, which are failing too many disabled people. Indeed, 72% of PIP decisions that go to appeal are overturned in favour of the claimant. Disabled people are being forced to wait up to nine months before their case goes to an appeal tribunal. It is the same for employment and support allowance claimants, too. It is shameful.

The consequences of the failing system are devastating. Just last year, the Government released figures showing that 5,690 people had died within six months of being found fit for work under the work capability assessment. That is why Labour and many others were proud to support the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition that called for an investigation into social security-related deaths. The petition was signed by more than 50,000 people. Will the Government, as part of their national strategy for disabled people, finally agree to carry out an urgent inquiry into social security-related deaths?

In conclusion, the Government have an opportunity to address the misery they have caused over the past decade. On jobs, housing, the climate and disabled people’s rights, the Queen’s Speech has fallen short, which is why I will vote for the amendment tabled by the Leader of the Opposition, my right hon. Friend Jeremy Corbyn. I urge the Government to think about what I have spoken about. This country and the people of my constituency of Battersea cannot afford any more missed targets or broken promises.