People with Disabilities: Access to Services - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 2:10 pm ar 16 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Viscount Younger of Leckie Viscount Younger of Leckie The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 2:10, 16 Mai 2024

I think that it will go a very long way. We are looking seriously at getting the information out quickly—the link with HMRC is incredibly important here. We already get real-time information from HMRC anyway. We are asking the same question: what more can we do to be sure that those who do not let us know, for whatever reason, will do so? We also must not forget that the vast majority do let us know. This is a very important point. I believe that there will be a Question in the House next week on this issue, which I will be willing and ready to answer.

The subject of work was raised in particular by my noble friend Lord Shinkwin. This Government will always protect the most vulnerable, but we must also do everything possible to support those who can to move into work. I echo the Prime Minister’s speech at the Centre for Social Justice on 19 April, which I attended:

“The role of the welfare state should never be merely to provide financial support … but to help people overcome whatever barriers they might face to living an independent, fulfilling life”.

That is why we are supporting thousands more disabled people to start, stay and succeed in work through our £2.5 billion back to work plan. That includes exploring reforms to the fit-note process through the call for evidence—another theme raised today—and rolling out WorkWell, to bring together local health and employment support. Questions were raised today about who is best placed to make health assessments for work. I do not intend to go further on that, but we may well receive some information through the conversation and the PIP consultation on that subject.

From 2025, we will reform the work capability assessment to reflect new flexibilities in the labour market while maintaining protections for those with the most serious conditions. My noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond and others raised the disability employment gap. The Government have an ambitious programme of initiatives to support disabled people and people with health conditions. The disability employment rate was 52.9% in the first quarter of 2024, compared to 81.7% for non-disabled people. For disabled people, that is an increase of 0.1 percentage points. The disability employment gap was 28.8 percentage points in the first quarter of 2024, a decrease of 0.6 percentage points on the year before.

We are also expanding access to mental health treatment, with nearly 400,000 additional places through NHS talking therapies, which I think the House will be well aware of. All this builds on existing support, such as Access to Work grants, our Disability Confident scheme and disability employment advisers in jobcentres.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Donaghy and Lady Hughes, asked what the Government are doing to help those in poverty. There is a long answer I could give, but the short answer, which I think I have given in the House before, is that we are committed to supporting people on lower incomes and expect to spend around £303 billion through the welfare system in Great Britain in 2024-25, including around £138 billion on people of working age and their children. These statistics cover 2022-23, a year when inflation averaged 10% and benefits were uprated by 3.1%, in line with the CPI.

On the disabled, the latest statistics show that the number of people in families where someone is disabled and in absolute poverty—which is our preferred measure—fell by 100,000 between 2021-22 and 2022-23. The proportion of people in families where someone is disabled and in absolute poverty after housing costs has decreased by two percentage points since 2019-20, and the number of people in such families has increased slightly due to an increase in the number of people in families where someone is disabled.

Briefly, on education, which I think was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, and others, in the special educational needs and disability sector our improvement plan will establish a single national system so that children can achieve good outcomes. We have increased high-needs revenue funding for children and young people with complex needs to cover £10.5 billion this year, up 60% over the last five years. The Law Commission is also undertaking a review of disabled children’s social care legislation to help clarify the law and to ensure that families of disabled children receive the support that they need. I hope that this may help address the remarks from the noble Lord, Lord Addington.

I will go further on the question of what the Government are doing to achieve greater national equality in the support offered to children. Our improvement plan outlines our commitment to establish a single national SEND system with a proposal to deliver national standards. National standards will improve mainstream education by setting standards for early and accurate identification of SEND need, and they will include clarifying the types of support that should be available in mainstream settings and who is responsible for securing the support. Finally, national standards will create a more consistent SEND system. That may not provide the whole answer, but I hope that helps.