Welfare Reform: Disabled People

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

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Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration)

What recent discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on the potential impact of the Government’s proposed welfare reforms on disabled people.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Scottish National Party, Kilmarnock and Loudoun

What recent discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on the potential impact of the Government’s proposed welfare reforms on disabled people.

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

The Department engages regularly with the Cabinet Office on the different options for reshaping the current welfare system set out in the health and disability Green Paper, including on the potential impact on claimants with different health conditions.

Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration)

The proposed reforms to personal independence payment unjustly target disabled people in a cost of living crisis. The Multiple Sclerosis Society found that nearly two in three people with MS said that the application process had a negative effect on their physical and mental health. Instead of pursing reforms that risk worsening inequality, will the Minister make representations to scrap informal observations to any PIP changes, as has already been done with the adult disability payment in Scotland?

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

We want to understand how best to target support for disabled people and those with health conditions, to provide the right kind of support for those who need it most, and to ensure value for the taxpayer. Providing the right support to people who need it most, and understanding long-term health conditions and how people want to live independently and reach their full potential, is key to that. We must also ensure that disabled people feel understood and have a voice, which is why I strongly urge people to be part of that consultation and have their say. We want to hear from disabled people—that is what they say to me: they want to be heard and understood.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Scottish National Party, Kilmarnock and Loudoun

In November, when I raised the concerns of Parkinson’s UK about changes to the work capability assessment, the then Minister agreed to meet the organisation. Six months on, there has been no meeting, and the Minister has replied to my follow-up written questions with standard answers about meeting a number of organisations. Will she step up to the plate and meet Parkinson’s UK to hear directly its concerns about the changes to welfare reform for those suffering from Parkinson’s?

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

I try not to give standard answers, and I will not give a standard answer to that question. I recently met people who were diagnosed with Parkinson’s early—perhaps as young as 35—and I am happy to meet more broadly with Parkinson’s UK. I recently met Mind, and as much as my diary allows, and at events in the House, I engage with advocates for disabled people and those with health conditions. I am happy to pick up that meeting, because if it is not already in my diary, it should be soon.

Photo of Kirsten Oswald Kirsten Oswald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Women), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Equalities)

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recently concluded that the UK Government have

“failed to take all appropriate measures to address grave and systematic violations of the human rights of persons with disabilities and has failed to eliminate the root causes of inequality and discrimination.”

With those damning findings in mind, will the Minister confirm whether an equality impact on the proposed welfare reforms has been carried out, and if so, can we expect it to be made public?

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

I will write to the hon. Lady on that question. I can reassure her that I have met her and my counterparts in the devolved space regarding PIP reforms and the wider consultations, to ensure that we are hearing voices from everyone. As I said earlier, the UK is a signatory to the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, and we remain committed to ensuring that the UK is one of the best places to live and work as a disabled person. I come from caring and a family that lived with disablement. We must listen to disabled people, stop scaremongering and ensure that they are understood. That is exactly what our reforms and engagement are all about.