Disability Action Plan

– in the House of Commons at 4:29 pm on 5 February 2024.

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Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 4:29, 5 February 2024

Today, and in British Sign Language for those watching on Parliament Live, I am delighted to deliver on the Government’s commitment to transform the everyday lives of disabled people across the country for the better. We as a Government are working to make this country the most accessible place in the world for disabled people to live, work and thrive, and today I am proud to announce another important milestone: the publication of the disability action plan, which will actively make a difference to disabled people’s daily lives.

In December 2022 my predecessor, my hon. Friend Tom Pursglove, announced the intention to develop a new disability action plan to set out the practical, immediate actions that Ministers across Government will take to improve disabled people’s daily lives. Following that, my Department and the Disability Unit did a huge amount of work, and I thank everyone involved. Since coming into the role I have spent time listening, engaging and continuing to ensure that the voices of disabled people are properly heard, as that is an important priority for the Government. That is why in July 2023 we consulted on the draft disability action plan, setting out a range of proposals where we felt we could take immediate action or lay the foundations for longer-term change. We rightly wanted to give everyone, and most importantly disabled people, disabled people’s organisations and other key charities and stakeholders, the chance to have their say on the draft plan.

The consultation ran for 12 weeks and I am immensely grateful to every single person who took the time to respond. In the consultation we set out 12 areas for action. Each area proposed how the Disability Unit, together with my Department, other Government Departments and partners, would take action to drive improvements in those areas. Since the consultation closed in October, we have been carefully working through more than 1,300 responses, which pleasingly showed broad support for almost all our proposals. We have used these responses, along with feedback from a series of events and discussions during the consultation period, to finalise the proposals, adding a number of new measures to respond specifically to these consultation findings. An independent analysis of the consultation findings will be published on gov.uk today alongside the final plan when I conclude my statement.

The disability action plan we are publishing today sets out 32 practical actions, which I will lead across Government to take forward over the next 12 months with disabled people, disabled people’s organisations, other Government Departments and public service providers to improve the everyday lives of disabled people. These actions sit across 14 different areas, aiming to: better support disabled people who want to be elected to public office; include disabled people’s needs more effectively in emergency and resilience planning; include disabled people’s needs in climate-related policies; improve information and outcomes for families in which someone is or becomes disabled; make playgrounds more accessible for everybody; help our businesses of all sizes and sectors to understand the needs of, and deliver improvements for, disabled people; explore if the UK could host the Special Olympics world summer games in 2031; improve support for people who have guide or assistance dogs; help the Government to measure how effective their policies and services are for disabled people; research issues facing disabled people in the future so the that Government can be more proactive in addressing them; make Government publications and communications more accessible; improve understanding of the cost of living for disabled people; promote better understanding across Government of the United Nations convention on the rights of persons with disabilities; and monitor and report progress of the disability action plan. I can confirm that we will provide Parliament with updates on our progress in delivering against these actions in the plan in both six and 12 months’ time.

The disability action plan will be taken forward in parallel with the national disability strategy. Published in 2021, this wider strategy sets out the long-term vision to transform disabled people’s lives for the better. A written ministerial statement to Parliament on 18 September 2023 provided an update on progress on those commitments. Taken together, the disability action plan and the national disability strategy demonstrate this Government’s clear focus on improving disabled people’s daily lives in the here and now, and in the years to come.

As well as the disability action plan and the national disability strategy, the Government are already delivering significant work in areas that disabled people have told us are a priority, including reforms to employment and welfare through “Transforming Support”, the health and disability White Paper, and the back to work plan, and improving health and social care through the “People at the Heart of Care” White Paper. Further ongoing work by Departments includes cost of living support through Help for Households, as well as the SEND and alternative provision improvement plan.

Today’s new disability action plan is another vital pillar in improving disabled people’s everyday lives. Working with disabled people and their representative organisations, and with my colleagues across Government in my roles as lead for the disability unit and chair of the cross-Government ministerial disability champions, we will take immediate action now and in the coming months to achieve real, tangible improvements for disabled people, to help to deliver on their needs and to change disabled people’s daily lives for the better.

I commend this statement to the House.

Photo of Vicky Foxcroft Vicky Foxcroft Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) 4:36, 5 February 2024

I thank the Minister for advance sight of her statement.

The Government have had consultation after consultation, and they have published different strategies, but it sadly remains the case that we have had nothing that actually delivers a better life for disabled people. The Conservative party’s 2019 manifesto promised to deliver

“a National Strategy for Disabled People before the end of 2020.”

It claimed this would be an ambitious strategy to support disabled people in all aspects and phases of their life.

What have we actually seen? The Government finally launched their disability survey in January 2021, and it closed in April 2021, at the start of the pandemic. Disabled people were disproportionately affected by covid, accounting for six in 10 deaths. They struggled to access food, personal protective equipment and social care, and many were shielding. The question we must ask is why a national strategy for disabled people was not published until 28 July 2021, in the summer recess, with no chance for parliamentary scrutiny. I am grateful to have the opportunity to respond to the Minister today.

The disability action plan contains some positives. It attempts to address some of the well-known barriers that disabled people continue to face, through measures such as tackling guide dog refusals, raising the profile of assistive technology and increasing support for disabled people to take part in politics. There is also a commitment to British Sign Language interpretation at all No. 10 press conferences, which many will remember that I have argued for on numerous occasions. It is about time.

I do not think any Member would argue that those are not important issues that the Government can and should look at, but there is one glaringly obvious issue that the action plan fails to address. The top concern for disabled people now is the cost of living crisis—not my assumption but what disabled people are telling me and what charities are finding on the ground. A survey carried out by Sense found that 85% of people with complex disabilities are worried about the rising cost of living. The Royal National Institute of Blind People noted in its initial analysis of the plan that

“it’s disappointing there’s no mention of any…support measures to address the rising cost of living.”

Scope, the disability equality charity, has calculated that, on average, disabled households face extra costs of £975 per month to have the same standard of living as non-disabled households. Energy bills, for example, remain high, which makes day-to-day living very expensive for those who rely on specialist medical equipment or need to heat their homes more than the average household.

The Government have made two disability cost of living payments of £150, but many disabled people have told me those barely touched the sides, with many losing their warm home discount at the same time. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that our current social security system puts disabled people through multiple upsetting and dehumanising assessments. They are denied their legal entitlements far too often, unless they have the strength and support to go through the appeals process.

The Government’s White Paper, published last year, caused a huge amount of concern by proposing to scrap the work capability assessment, leaving disabled people reliant on the flawed personal independence payment assessment. The disability action plan does nothing to improve the assessment process. Without addressing those fundamental problems, the actions outlined in the plan feel like little more than tinkering around the edges. Disabled people need proper action that deals with all the societal barriers that make their lives challenging. May I say that the Government could have started by reinstating the Minister for Disabled People role to Minister of State level?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I thank the hon. Lady for what, I think, was a warm welcome in there somewhere—

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Not so much, she says, so there we go. I reiterate that the disability action plan is not just another consultation, but real, tangible action to change people’s daily lives, with 13 practical actions across 14 different areas.[This section has been corrected on 19 February 2024, column 10MC — read correction] (Correction) It is about building a society that works for everyone.

Vicky Foxcroft is right to point out that day-to-day life is too difficult for disabled people and their families; I agree with her. That is why we have taken the opportunities we can take in this round, alongside the wider national disabilities strategy. I would love to boil the ocean and to have fixed everything in the month or so I have been in the role, but I assure hon. Members that irrespective of the perceived level of the role, I have the convening power and support across Government. I am delighted that the hon. Lady keeps pushing for my elevation, but under the previous Labour Administration the Minister for Disabled People was an Under-Secretary of State. I am extremely proud to be an Under-Secretary of State

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Thank you, I will take that. Under our Government, the role has been mixed, which does not mean that we do not take it seriously. I take it extremely seriously.

I have come to the role with my own personal experience of living with my father, who became disabled and lived under the Court of Protection. When I was growing up, my mum worked with disabled adults, getting them into work. She was an early part of the Riding for the Disabled Association and the Special Olympics movement. No matter what rank I have in the Government, I bring that experience and interest to the role. I say to people watching that the pay cheque or the rank simply do not matter—I am in this for them.

The Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, my hon. Friend Amanda Solloway, and I have met to discuss the point made by the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford about the cost of energy. My hon. Friend is a disability champion across Government, as am I, so we will continue to engage. I reiterate that the cost of living payments will start again tomorrow. Some 6.4 million people across the UK have been able to claim an extra £150 in addition to their disability benefits, as the hon. Lady mentioned.

It is, of course, a challenging time for everybody. We put in place the furlough scheme and the other support for businesses and communities across the country to try to keep people on their feet. Between 2022 and 2025, we provided £104 billion to help people with the cost of living. To anybody who has a disability, a health condition or any other need, I say: please look at the benefits calculator on gov.uk. They should look at the household support fund, which runs for a full year—a whole six months longer than the previous one. There is a huge amount of interest in it, so I urge people to contact their local authority about it. I am delighted that many people with caring responsibilities and those looking after disabled people have been helped in this way.

Finally, the help-to-claim service is there as well, provided by the DWP working with Citizens Advice, to make sure that those in need do not have to worry, because the Government, both locally and nationally, are there for them.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

I call the Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee.

Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes Chair, Women and Equalities Committee, Chair, Women and Equalities Committee

I am sure that as an ambassador for the Special Olympics, my constituent the great Lawrie McMenemy will welcome the announcement that my hon. Friend has just made. Specifically, she has announced 32 practical actions across 14 separate areas. That gives an idea of the scale of the challenge when it comes to co-ordination and accountability. There are disability champions across every Government Department, and of course there is the disability unit in the Cabinet Office. How will she make sure that the challenge of co-ordination is successfully met, so that my constituents and each Member in this House will know who to turn to, and who to hold accountable, if those 32 practical actions are not delivered?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I thank my right hon. Friend for her point about the Special Olympics. When I was Sports Minister, I had the honour of meeting her constituent. I share his passion for a very important movement. It is potentially life changing, which is why I am delighted that it is in this plan.

My right hon. Friend asks about the evidence and data around the disability action plan. The plan is there to improve the quality of Government-held data, and to increase insight into the needs and barriers that affect disabled people’s daily lives. Ultimately, we will evaluate the impact of these policies and services, and we will use data, when they are available, to monitor and assess the outcomes of the plan. We will start work on developing more comprehensive evaluation. I know that, through her role as the Chair of the Select Committee, she will absolutely measure me and my role in this. I assure her, the House and all those watching that the plan is absolutely about learning, and delivering on this challenge.

Photo of Marion Fellows Marion Fellows Scottish National Party, Motherwell and Wishaw

I thank the Minister for prior sight of her statement. This disability action plan is not a plan; it is a mishmash of short-term policies. Some of the proposals are welcome and should have been sorted out long ago. Others are unclear and simply do not address the most pressing concerns of disabled people.

In my submission to the DAP consultation, I listed key areas that had been overlooked. Cost of living and welfare support are still missing, even though these areas were consistently raised by disability organisations and individuals. The Minister says that the Government will improve understanding of the cost of living for disabled people. What better understanding do they need? For the past two years, disabled people have been crying out for more targeted financial support to assist with their additional cost of living needs.

The Minister said that the Government will promote better understanding of the United Nations convention on the rights of persons with disabilities across Government. What does that actually mean? In 2016, the UK Government were found to have systematically failed disabled people. That is still happening. The work capability assessment reforms will subject more disabled people to the cruel, punitive, and ineffective sanctions regime. Why? If the Government are serious about improving the lives of those with disabilities, they should start by scrapping the proposals ahead of the 6 March Budget. How much of this plan will actually be enacted before the general election?

In contrast, the Scottish Government are acting within budgetary constraints to improve the lives of disabled people through the adult disability payment and child disability payment. The independent living fund, with an initial investment of up to £9 million, will enable people with disabilities to improve their life. Finally, no offence, but the downgrading of the role of Minister for disabilities indicates this Government’s disregard for people with disabilities.

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I thank the hon. Lady for her response; I am glad that advanced sight of the statement was welcome, at least. I reiterate to those watching that this plan is one pillar of the work that we are doing across all Government Departments to help disabled people to succeed, and to make this the most accessible place to live, work and thrive.

The work capability assessment will be changed. My engagement so far has been very much about what disabled people feel. I was in Aberdeen on Thursday, chatting to some of our claimants and those working with a local charity. Many of those disabled people were so frustrated that they cannot get a chance to work, and to try things. The action plan is not about punitive sanctions; it is about giving disabled people the opportunity to take part in wider daily life, which we all take for granted. I point her to the cost of living support, and the around £200 million in Barnett consequentials for her Government. I have consistently asked where the money is going and how they are spending it. I would love to have pointed that out to those I met on Thursday.

This issue is not about party-political barneying in this Chamber; the hon. Lady and I share the view that it is about supporting disabled people in their daily life. I strongly believe that these measures will change their daily life. We will report in six months—if she knows more than me, and the next election is before that, then it will not be me doing so—and in 12 months. Of course, she and I will continue to discuss these matters until the election. I am sure that where we can work together, we will.

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Assistant Whip

I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, in respect of a charity to do with deaf people and cancer. I welcome my hon. Friend to her post. I know from many years of working with her that she is a very capable Minister who will take the job extremely seriously and give it her all. Disabled people have told me very clearly that they need a senior, serious voice in Government. Will she say a little more about how she will be that voice, and how she will listen to disabled people and reflect their needs inside Government? Also, to echo my right hon. Friend Caroline Nokes, the Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, I press the Minister to say a little more about how she will ensure that disabled people’s issues of accessibility are not an afterthought in Government but are put first, so that inclusion is by design, and important aims are all achieved.

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I thank my right hon. Friend for her kind words, and for her incredible, impeccable support; she took the British Sign Language Act 2022 through Parliament, and I thank her for the work that she has done in my Department, and her continuing interest in these matters. Fundamentally, the disability action plan is about disabled people’s daily lives, and their needs not being an afterthought in any part of Government.

I will be honest: coming into this role, I found getting messages out extremely challenging. I will take that forward by promoting accessible communications, monitoring standards and training, and ensuring full inclusion. Vicky Foxcroft mentioned the No. 10 Downing Street briefings. It is so important that everybody knows the central messages; everyone needs to be included. That is why one of the actions comes down to local resilience forums, and having the right engagement at a local level in times of needs. I am sure that my right hon. Friend Chloe Smith will welcome that, too.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

I call the Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Chair, Work and Pensions Committee, Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

The Select Committee called for a review of the underperforming Disability Confident scheme. That review was delayed by the pandemic, but in October we were told that officials were refining the recommendations. Can the Minister tell us what the plan says about Disability Confident, and does it hold out the prospect of shorter waiting times for Access to Work?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

It was remiss of me not to reply just now to the point raised by my right hon. Friend Chloe Smith about the strong voice across Government. That is, of course, the Secretary of State, who sits in the Cabinet and works alongside me to represent disabled people’s voices.

To respond to the Chair of the Select Committee, Access to Work grants, which helping with extra costs beyond standard reasonable adjustments, are important for my Department as we smash the employment goal and try to do more on disability employment. He is right to ask about that and to challenge Disability Confident. It is not just a nice thing that companies put on their website; it needs to deliver change for disabled people in the workplace. We will look at the disability employment goal; I am looking at Access to Work, and I will look at Disability Confident, just as the Select Committee has done. I urge him to watch this space.

Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson Conservative, North Swindon

I welcome these proposals, and I thank the fantastic disability unit team, and the stakeholders who have helped to shape them—in particular, the proposals on accessible play parks. I have been working with organisations such as Benjamin’s Smile and Mums on a Mission, both in my constituency. Swindon is leading by example when it comes to making sure that children’s play parks are accessible to all, and hopefully we can make that a given across the whole country. One of the key points of the national disability strategy was that there would be an annual review, so that we could be held to account on what we achieved and where we needed to work harder. It would also allow us to set out the next range of ambitious targets, co-ordinated by the Minister through the departmental disability champions. Can I have assurance that, good as these proposals are, we will review them on an annual basis, as well as having a new, fresh set? I also join the calls to see my hon. Friend made a Minister of State, because if she is to co-ordinate efforts across Government, in areas beyond her direct influence, she needs to have that gravitas in that room, so that she can demand what is needed to remove barriers for disabled people.

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his experience and insight. I have met the ministerial disability champions already to ensure: that disability inclusion is a priority and is ultimately delivered in their Departments’ work; that they continue to be accountable for their contribution to the development and delivery of the national disability strategy and the disability action plan; and that they continue to show their commitment to disabled people by creating opportunities, protecting their rights and ensuring action on everything that we have spoken about today, in terms of contributions to society.

On making playgrounds more accessible and my hon. Friend’s impeccable work in his constituency, there is a lot of information on disability inclusion in organised sport, physical activity and exercise, but information on making playgrounds accessible is unfortunately not easily available. We want to make it available, work with the partners he mentioned and achieve best practice among local authorities. That will be part of this plan, and we will measure its delivery in six months and 12 months.

Photo of Debbie Abrahams Debbie Abrahams Labour, Oldham East and Saddleworth

I have huge regard for the Minister, but I gently say to her that we must recognise the context of this disability action plan. Between 2011 and 2020, the equivalent of £20 billion was cut from working-age people, predominantly disabled people. Individually, they lost thousands of pounds every year, as my hon. Friend Vicky Foxcroft pointed out. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s “UK Poverty 2024” report identified that disabled people have been disproportionately impacted by that, and are likely to suffer deep poverty and destitution. On the Government’s commitment, I hope that the Minister can reassure me: it is approaching two years since the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that the Department was discriminating against disabled people and issued a section 23 notice, and we still have heard nothing from the Department on that. Could the Minister reassure us that it will publish something on that in the next few weeks, and certainly before the second anniversary of that notice?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I thank the hon. Lady for her points. I know that she has long been pushing for a response, and I will write to her further on that matter. As I said to Vicky Foxcroft, there has been substantial cost of living support, but I understand the point about disability costs that has been made today. Again, I point people towards the household support fund, which is there for exactly those additional costs. In fact, we are doing research and evaluation on where that support is going, and it is making a difference to people’s daily lives. I want those people to know that, beyond the cost of living payments, which start again tomorrow, further support is available through their local authorities or from devolved moneys.

Photo of Alicia Kearns Alicia Kearns Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee, Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee, Chair, Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on the Overseas Territories, Chair, Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on the Overseas Territories

I welcome the disability action plan. It follows the British Sign Language Act 2022 and the Down Syndrome Act 2022, which have supported 2 million more disabled people into work, as well as the cost of living disability payments, which begin tomorrow. I will be holding a disability forum in my home county of Rutland on 28 June, where I will bring together people living with disabilities, and their families and carers, so that we can create a plan for our county. Will my hon. Friend, who has brought such strength and passion to her role, share what support might be available to help roll out such action plans at a local level?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I thank my hon. Friend for making that important point. Something announced here in Westminster might sound great, but what does it mean in Rutland and beyond? That is an important part of the next steps. Of course, we have support in our jobcentres, with further work coach support and disability employment advisers offering advice and expertise, and I have mentioned Access to Work, Disability Confident and our future employment goal. If she sent me an invite, I would be delighted to listen in on what her constituents and those advocating would like to hear and understand.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Independent, Islington North

I note that the Minister mentioned in her statement the aim to

“promote better understanding across Government of the United Nations convention on the rights of persons with disabilities”,

which is very welcome. How exactly will she do that with each Department, both in their roles as employers of a large number of people around the country, and in the policies that they promote, such as disability benefits—including those relating to mental health—and the provision of housing for people with disabilities? If she finds that the Departments are not coming up to the mark in achieving what she wants of them, how will she ensure that they are forced to carry out her policy, to ensure that there is real equality for people with disabilities in our society?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point about cross-Government working and delivering on the action plan. I stress to him and to those watching that the plan is one pillar of the work that we are doing. We will, for example, work to increase disability-inclusive approaches to emergency and resilience planning and climate adaptions, through working strategically with teams on that. We will always work with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to ensure that disability inclusion is increased. As I have said, it is increasingly vital that ministerial champions deliver and are accountable in their Departments—that is what I will be doing. It will mean that disabled people can benefit from everything that Government and community do, and can rightly contribute to every aspect of our society.

Photo of Alec Shelbrooke Alec Shelbrooke Conservative, Elmet and Rothwell

I welcome my hon. Friend’s statement. I am particularly pleased about the aim to

“help our businesses of all sizes and sectors to understand the needs of, and deliver improvements for, disabled people”.

One group of people who feel that they should be recognised in disability plans are those with advanced endometriosis. In a debate that I led on endometriosis in the workplace, we heard that some of the issues that women face at that advanced stage are really disabilities, but because they are not listed as such, many women lose their jobs owing to poor attendance through sick days and so on. I very much welcome the strategy, but will my hon. Friend consider expanding it to those women’s health issues that are totally disabling?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. Research shows that disabled people are more likely to experience difficulties and barriers in accessing products and services, which results in a lack of confidence —whether that is on the high street, in going to work, or elsewhere. The consultation proposes a voluntary accreditation scheme for businesses to train their staff in disability awareness. The benefits to business are absolutely clear: Purple says that the spending power of disabled households is £284 billion a year.

As my right hon. Friend knows, I lead on women’s health and on the wider issue of keeping women in the workforce within the Department for Work and Pensions. The debilitating impact of the menopause and the wider impact of menstruation in the oil and gas sector, for example, were issues raised in Aberdeen just last week, which links into our women’s health strategy. This is the second time that endometriosis has been mentioned in the Chamber recently. I would be happy to meet my right hon. Friend and others to discuss how we link it into our understanding.

Photo of Christine Jardine Christine Jardine Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Women and Equalities), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

There is much to welcome in the plan, but there are also a few things that are missing. One specific thing that the Minister has included in her 14 areas for action is helping businesses of all sizes and sectors to understand the needs of, and deliver improvements for, disabled people. One of my constituents came to me recently because, as a user of an electric wheelchair, she has found it almost impossible to know what businesses—specifically hotels—mean by “accessible”. It means something different to every business: wheelchair users can find themselves going into a business and then being unable to move around. If they are in a hotel, they can get to their hotel room, but cannot move around within that room. Can the Minister tell us whether the Government are going to take action to set out exactly what is needed if a business is going to use the term “accessible”?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I thank the hon. Lady for making that point, which also applies to businesses’ recruitment: they talk about recruiting differently, and they want to do so, but then they regress. That tends to be due to a lack of understanding. The Disability Unit will work to better define what businesses need to do, building on the main issues raised in the consultation responses. That work will also look at evidence gaps; at where existing schemes are already doing things and there may be duplication; and, as the hon. Lady said and as I described earlier, at where people think they are doing the right thing but it does not match the reality of the experience for disabled people using a service or having a day out or a night away. That is part of the work covered by actions 18 and 19 in the plan, and I would be delighted to hear from the hon. Lady what that means to her constituents.

Photo of Mark Pritchard Mark Pritchard Conservative, The Wrekin

I welcome the disability action plan. The Minister mentioned the cost of living; I wondered what more could be done to speed up the transition to personal independence payments for those living on disability living allowance. One of my constituents has just waited over a year for that transition to take place.

I welcome the fact that access to playgrounds is in the action plan, but following on from the questions asked by my hon. Friend Justin Tomlinson and Jeremy Corbyn, what more can be done to ensure that these points are delivered, both at a local government level—perhaps by making it a statutory responsibility for local councils to provide at least a minimum level of disability access for some play areas and playgrounds—and at a national level? What cross-departmental committees or working is the Minister already involved with?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I thank my right hon. Friend for making some really pertinent points. In regard to his point about playgrounds, that is why there will be a portal and some best practice. Some local authorities are already delivering; others will be able to learn from those interventions, so that families can enjoy playing together in the way that everybody else would take for granted. That should be available in every community.

My right hon. Friend also mentioned the wider structural changes. I am happy to look at the specific case he raised. If he would kindly send me the details, I would be very grateful. This plan is part of the wider national disability strategy, including changes to the work capability assessment. The engagement I have had with disabled people and their organisations has made clear that there are some very vulnerable people who are very keen to be protected and supported, and there are other groups who are very keen to get the opportunities and chances they need. This Government are determined to get the approach right for everybody and every community.

Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Exports)

According to the charity Sense, 85% of people with complex disabilities are worried about the rising cost of living. The Minister’s predecessor said that the disability action plan would outline the “immediate” action this Government would take to make the lives of disabled people better, so why does the disability action plan do so little to address the cost of living crisis now?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I would point the hon. Gentleman to the next stage of the cost of living payments, which start tomorrow, and again to the household support fund, which we see, evidentially, is supporting carers and those with disabilities at a really difficult time. We have ensured the energy price guarantee remains in place as an additional safety net until March this year. It will hold bills down, and I hope, as energy prices fall, it will help low-paid workers or disabled people, as he describes. The Government are providing millions of households with further cost of living payments, as I say, and there is a £104 billion package to support households until 2025. I am engaged with the other disability champion, the Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, my hon. Friend Amanda Solloway, on this matter. That is wider than this specific plan, but the hon. Gentleman can be assured that we continue to engage on this matter.

Photo of Virginia Crosbie Virginia Crosbie Conservative, Ynys Môn

May I say llongyfarchiadau—congratulations—to the Minister on the launch of the disability action plan? I visited Ysgol Llanfawr in Morawelon, Holyhead, where teacher Ceri Wyn Jones’s year 6 class excitedly shared with me how important playgrounds are to them and their families, and they would love a splash park. Can the Minister reassure students such as Phoebe Owen and Alecia Hughes that she will work with her devolved partners to ensure that playgrounds across Ynys Môn are made more accessible for everyone?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Diolch yn fawr—and iechyd da! That is a fantastic opportunity for those local children to have a really inclusive and positive playground. This afternoon, I wrote to my counterparts in the Welsh Government to tell them about the plan, and to thank them for their engagement. We want to support action in all playgrounds to make sure disabled children and their families have that sense of belonging and that experience, and there is no greater sense of belonging than when it comes to Ynys Môn. We want to make sure that learning comes from play, which is why, when that splash pad is being designed, the portal and the best practice could make it more inclusive than anyone could have dreamed of before today.

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington

Will the action plan address the specific issue raised by the excellent John Pring of the Disability News Service, which is the 14-year pattern of the DWP dismissing the concerns expressed by coroners over the deaths of disabled claimants?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the point he makes. Of course, we in our Department deal with some very vulnerable people in very difficult situations, but this is a time of 30-plus actions and some changes that are extremely positive. We have made sure that we have put safeguarding at the heart of what we do, and I will write to him specifically about that matter.

Photo of Layla Moran Layla Moran Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Development), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

The Botley Road in Oxford has been closed for nearly a year, with another six months to go. While that is an inconvenience for residents, for our disabled residents it has been an absolute blight on their lives. The one thing that was put in place for them has been reduced to just one hour in the day, and they have felt completely left out, while some have not even left their homes. Will this plan include provisions for local residents affected by infrastructure projects—in this case, run by Network Rail, which is making the decisions—because I cannot see where that is included in the plan?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

If the hon. Lady send me the details, I would be happy to have a look at the specific issue and that particular group. In this disability action plan, the Government truly believe that considering disabled people’s needs in policy making makes for better and more inclusive outcomes for everyone. That is why reaching net zero by 2050 is engaged in actions 7 to 11. There is also our work on clean air zones and ultra low emission zones, including making sure that disabled people’s access needs are fully balanced when creating such schemes. When it comes to access—whether it is about road closures, or rail—that is exactly what this plan is about, and I am keen to look at the details she mentioned.

Photo of Tulip Siddiq Tulip Siddiq Shadow Minister (Treasury)

A constituent of mine who has been hospitalised multiple times over the past 20 years as a result of a serious bipolar disorder was deemed ineligible for PIP. He received absolutely no help navigating the complex PIP process and had to go through a lengthy tribunal until he was finally deemed eligible. How will this plan bring about any meaningful change when the Government have repeatedly failed to get to grips with the long-standing failures in the disability benefits system?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

That sounds like a very concerning case. This action plan is part of a wider structural reform on health and disability. We know from our research that one in five people with a disability or health condition is not expected to engage in work preparation, but they might want to work. The hon. Lady’s constituent is seemingly very vulnerable, and this is a difficult process to navigate. We have our help to claim service and other support for vulnerable claimants, and I am happy to look at this issue for the hon. Lady. The White Paper transformations include a new potential passporting to UC health element through PIP, but I am conscious that every PIP delay or PIP challenge involves a person and a situation and is very concerning, and I am making that a priority in this role.

Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Shadow Minister (Future of Work), Shadow Minister (Employment Rights and Protections)

I want to follow up on the earlier questions about accessible play areas, which I am pleased are a part of the disability action plan. I do not think having a website will go far enough in delivering what we all want to see, which is far more accessible play areas. There needs to be a strategy backed with resources underneath this website to deliver on the aspiration that we all share. The Minister will know that local authorities are on their knees in terms of funding, so will the Department put in any money to make sure that all our children are able to access play areas?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Sport England is undertaking work on best practice and that is precisely about opening up that portal and making this a reality for youngsters. We know that all children’s wellbeing is absolutely about their social activities and opportunities to learn through play, and this plan should not and will not be a talking shop resulting in no change. I will keenly make sure that this information on accessible playgrounds makes a difference, and that will be part of the reports we do at six and 12 months.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I thank the Minister for her statement; it was most helpful. Several of my disabled constituents have raised an issue that I am sure is replicated in every constituency across the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and which is not clear in the action plan: help to insulate homes to aid with energy costs for those who need health-related upgrades or ongoing help with energy costs rather than a one-off bonus payment. What consideration have the Government given to the issue of warm homes for our disabled constituents—something that they do not necessarily have?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I wrote to counterparts in Northern Ireland again today, as I did to all devolved groups, and the hon. Gentleman is right about the challenges we have heard in the Chamber today, and I am happy to look at the extra support available for his community. As usual, he makes a pertinent point about ensuring that everybody has that warm home and that support. This is of course devolved in a slightly different way in his community, but I am happy to share the details with him.

Photo of Richard Burgon Richard Burgon Labour, Leeds East

The truth is that disabled people have been at the sharp end of this Government’s cruel policies: their austerity and their attacks on social security and public services. Disabled people are also among the hardest hit by the cost of living crisis, but this disability action plan fails to introduce the emergency measures demanded by disabled people to directly address the crisis, never mind the decade of attacks they have faced; isn’t that the case?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I do not appreciate the characterisation—[Interruption.] Excuse me, the hon. Gentleman seems to be distracted. As I was saying, I do not understand his characterisation. There are 32 actions over the next 12 months in 14 different areas where we have listened and engaged with disabled people. We have heard what they want, and those actions are in parallel with our national disability strategy. His is exactly the kind of rhetoric—“The Government are against you and not supporting you”—that makes disabled people feel more isolated and concerned for their welfare. I want to say squarely to people listening today that we have an absolute focus on what we can do to make sure that disabled people’s daily lives are better and that there is support and help there for them. This is one of the pillars of support that this Government are absolutely committed to. When he reads the full plan, he will see that it will make disabled people’s daily lives better, and that is what this Government are determined to deliver.