Improving Support for Disabled People and People with Health Conditions

Department for Work and Pensions written statement – made on 20th July 2021.

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Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

I am pleased today to update the house on the publications of Shaping Future Support: The Health and Disability Green Paper and the Health is everyone’s business consultation response.

The Government has a clear objective to make sure that disabled people and people with health conditions can lead the fullest, most independent lives possible, reaching their potential. As part of this, we remain committed to our ambition to see one million more disabled people in work by 2027.

Today’s publications and the work that follows will help us take an important step towards improving the way we help disabled people and people with health conditions to start, stay and succeed in work.

In 2021/22 we are forecast to spend a record £58 billion on benefits for disabled people and people with health conditions, and we have witnessed record levels of disability employment. We must now build on these achievements, unlock new opportunities and consider how support can be made sustainable for the future, so we can continue to help those most in need.

The consultation launched by today’s publication of the Green Paper will help us do this. It focuses on issues that disabled people and people with health conditions have told us they would like to see improved. This includes:

  • Testing new advocacy support, drawing on support already being provided by partners, so we can test and develop new ways to support the most vulnerable people who need extra help accessing and using the benefits system and who don’t have families, friends or trusted networks to support them;
  • Making changes to the way we deliver health assessments, including considering future use of telephone and video assessments where that is right for the individual and exploring how we can improve the decision making process, including the evidence we take into account;
  • Reducing the number of assessments that we undertake by exploring the extension of the principles of the Severe Conditions Criteria;
  • Exploring ways to strengthen the process people follow if they think the decision from a health assessment is wrong, building on the changes we have already introduced at the Mandatory Reconsideration Stage; and
  • Building on our commitment to reform the Work Capability Assessment, following work with disabled people and people with health conditions to consider future changes to assessments.

It is essential that any changes we make are shaped by disabled people and their representatives. This is why the Department and I have hosted a series of engagement events across the country, to hear about disabled people’s experiences of DWP services and priorities for future changes. This has also included a number of sessions with Members of Parliament who have held sessions in their constituencies, sessions I am thankful to have held. These experiences have directly shaped the Health and Disability Green Paper.

The consultation started by the launch of this Green Paper will last for 12 weeks. Following the consultation, detailed proposals will then be brought forward in a White Paper in mid-2022.

Taking action to better support people in work is another crucial element of our agenda, and with the publication of the Health is everyone’s business response, we are setting out the further action this Government intends to take to tackle ill-health related job loss. I am grateful to the almost 500 respondents to the consultation.

Reducing health-related job losses is as important as helping people into work. Whilst most people return to work following a period of long-term sickness absence, disabled people have a heightened risk of falling out of work, an estimated 300,000 disabled people falling out of work a year prior to COVID-19. The initiatives set out in the Health is everyone’s business response will work to address this challenge. They are designed as a package that both increases employer responsibilities in managing employee health at work, whilst also improving employer access to Occupational Health (OH) advice and government support.

Employers have an important role to play in creating inclusive and healthy workplaces. Government recognises that employers need both more clarity on their existing responsibilities and clearer information to enable them to have the right guidance to support disabled people and people with long-term health conditions to remain in work or return to work following sickness absence.

Cross-Government collaboration will continue as we enact proposals, ensuring we are well equipped to meet the challenges ahead. We will also continue working with key stakeholder organisations, employers and employees to deliver the proposals into the future. This will reduce the chance that certain individuals or groups are left behind and complement existing initiatives to help employees manage the employment impact of their condition, such as integrated Employment Advice provision in the NHS’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT) services in England.

I am hugely excited by this work. It is a real opportunity to deliver a more effective health and disability system and unlock every disabled person’s potential. This Green Paper will deliver ambitious policy reforms to improve the lives of disabled people, whilst the package outlined in the Health is everyone’s business response will ensure all employers are equipped to do the right thing for their employees, helping disabled people and people with health conditions stay in and thrive in the new world of work. The Health and Disability Green Paper and Health is everyone’s business response, alongside the forthcoming National Disability Strategy, will set out holistic approach to enable disabled people and people with health conditions to thrive in work and live more independent lives.