We are taking decisive action to improve the lives of disabled people
Disabled people deserve the same opportunities to live independent and fulfilling lives as everyone else.
This is what we strive for in Government and as the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, I have made it my mission to try and improve the lives of disabled people the length and breadth of the country.
There is still much work to do, but I am pleased to say we are making real, significant progress – steeled by a determination to overcome any and all barriers put in front of us, inspired by the remarkable resilience disabled people show each and every day.
In July I updated the House of Commons that both the UK Disability Survey and the National Disability Strategy had been found to be lawful by the Court of Appeal, following a successful challenge by the Government.
So I want to report how the strategy commitments that were not affected by this judgment have progressed – with around 40% completed – and what further work we are planning to create more opportunities for disabled people, helping them thrive and contribute fully to all aspects of our society.
Whether that’s providing support with the cost of living, driving advances in assistive tech, or increasing financial support for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities, we have taken decisive action and are delivering better outcomes for disabled people.
But we won’t stop there. And for the next step, we want to make sure that the voices of disabled people, their advocates, and their employers, are heard loud and clear.
Together with the strategy, we have three consultations that are live right now and which propose major changes to tangibly improve disabled peoples’ lives.
First, our Disability Action Plan consultation sets out an ambitious programme of work across Government to improve disabled people’s lives in the short, medium and long term. We want to make the greatest possible positive impact for disabled people and I would urge everyone to share their views on the Action Plan before the consultation closes on 6 October.
Beyond that, one of the ways we want to improve the lives of disabled people is through employment. It is not just the extra pounds in your pocket; work can provide a boost to your mental and physical health, as well as a sense of purpose. In short, the right employment can be a ticket to a better life.
Just last week we announced new employment support that will help up to 25,000 long-term sick and disabled people as part of our Universal Support programme, as set out in the Spring Budget. This latest £53 million investment will help people find and sustain jobs, but this is just the start. Universal Support will help at least 50,000 people a year by 2025/26 and break down the barriers to sustained employment for disabled people and the long-term sick.
We know that many people on disability benefits want to work and with modern working practices, could do so with the right support. That’s why we are consulting on changes to Work Capability Assessments, to better support more benefit recipients to engage with work and work-related activities. It is not right that many claimants are being excluded from the opportunities only work can provide, and I would again encourage people to have their say in shaping the future of the welfare system through this consultation.
To create a truly inclusive and diverse workforce, employers must also play their part. One of the ways we are helping to improve the workplace so that it accommodates diverse needs is by encouraging the uptake of occupational health services. At present only 45% of workers have access to occupational health provision. This needs to change. Through our consultation on this we are seeking views from employers, employees and disabled people themselves to inform our long-term approach to occupational health, ultimately providing better employee health and wellbeing support in the workplace, allowing disabled people to thrive.
The Government’s Disability Confident Scheme is another example of supporting employers to effect change – improving how they recruit, retain and develop the skills of disabled people. It is transforming lives for the better and the latest survey, published today, provides the proof. Almost two thirds of members reported recruiting a disabled employee or employee with a long-term health condition since joining, while seven in 10 agreed that the recruitment or retention of a disabled staff member had had a positive impact on morale. I would encourage all employers, big or small, to sign up to be Disability Confident and provide job opportunities to those they might have overlooked.
Disabled people are at the heart of this Government’s plans for change and as the Minister for Disabled People, I am determined to deliver better outcomes as part of a more inclusive society. Much has been done, but there is still much to do, and together we will make an even greater difference for disabled people.
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