Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons on 23rd January 2023.
What steps his Department is taking to incentivise people to return to the labour market.
As the House will be aware, I am currently reviewing economic inactivity—it is not satisfactory that we currently have almost 9 million people who are economically inactive—and I will be come back to the House in due course with various measures.
I welcome that work and wish my right hon. Friend well in concluding his review. Many disabled people and people with long-term health conditions want to work and we should help them to do so. Does he agree that the current health and disability benefits can pose a financial disincentive against trying work, and that it is right for us to look again at providing better support?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. May I just say how helpful it is that, having left the Department, she continues to show such a positive and constructive interest in the matter? She is entirely right that we need to focus on what people can do when they are disabled, rather than on what they cannot do. That will be very much at the heart of the White Paper.
The Secretary of State has just said that we should be focusing on what people can do. One key to getting older people back into work is for employers—public and private—to value experience as much as paper qualifications, and in particular not to insist on degrees and A-levels unless they are strictly relevant. He could even take up my private Member’s Bill, the Employment (Application Requirements) Bill, to bring that about.
I would, of course, be happy to look at the right hon. Gentleman’s private Member’s Bill. He makes an important point, which is that we have to ensure that employers see disabled people with eyes wide open—their abilities and the contribution they can make. That is why we promote Disability Confident, and why we have so many work coaches up and down the country focusing on just that.