Support for People with Disabilities

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons at on 15 May 2024.

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

If she will make an assessment of the adequacy of Government support for people with disabilities.

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

The Government deliver wide-ranging support for disabled people, including in work and education. We continually seek to enhance support—for example, via improvements to the health and disability benefits system, and in the accessibility of homes and transport, and through delivery of the national disability strategy and the disability action plan.

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

The United Nations has found that the Government have breached the rights of sick and disabled people, including their rights at work, and the UK’s own equality watchdog has said that the Department for Work and Pensions has discriminated against sick and disabled people. Given that only 2.7% of participants in the Government’s work and health programme have a successful job outcome, what meaningful proposals do the Government have to reduce the 29% disability employment gap?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

I thank the hon. Lady for her point, which takes me back to our time on the Work and Pensions Committee. I genuinely feel disappointed about that report, and the Government strongly rejected its findings in 2016, but we will continue to implement the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities and the Committee’s recommendations through many of our policies to improve disabled people’s lives, whether that is WorkWell, our disability employment advisers, or the work we are doing on fit note reform. We are absolutely determined to support disabled people in work. Indeed, in the first quarter of 2024 there were 10.3 million disabled people in employment, which is an increase of 400,000 on the year before.

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

I know that my hon. Friend is absolutely committed to disability employment, but can she please outline exactly what she is doing, both at the DWP and in her wider role across Government, to ensure that inclusion is embedded in policy and leadership so that disabled people—particularly those who are neurodiverse—are supported into civil service jobs?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

I thank my right hon. Friend for her point and for her work in this area. We are delivering on the Buckland review, and all ministerial Departments are signing up to Disability Confident, progressing to Disability Confident leader status and having evidence independently validated on that work. Arm’s length bodies are also signing up to Disability Confident, and we are working with parent Departments to encourage more of them to do the same. One in 10 senior civil servants declare themselves to be disabled, and since 2013 the proportion of civil servants with a disability has increased to 16.8%.

Photo of Ashley Dalton Ashley Dalton Shadow Minister (Equalities Office)

I am already a little confused by the Minister’s answers this morning. In December I raised the issue of the disability pay gap, and she replied from the Dispatch Box that the Government were closing the disability employment gap. She has mentioned this morning that that is apparently happening, but the numbers tell a different story: in the period from January to March 2024, 100,000 fewer people with disabilities were in employment compared with the same period 12 months earlier. Why does she think the plan is not working?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

The hon. Lady and I could trade statistics, but what I am interested in is opportunities for disabled people and people with health conditions, hence the work we are doing on the Buckland review, and indeed on entrepreneurship and the Lilac review—there will be further updates on that to the House shortly. If the hon. Lady is ready to listen, I can reassure her that we are working on the Disability Confident scheme and are doing further work on the employment goal, and I will update the House soon.