The Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson has written [in the Guardian] about his new role and his priorities on areas including PIP, Access to Work and the Disability Confident campaign.
Since the role of Minister for Disabled People was created in 1974, our understanding of what it means to be disabled and the type of support available have both changed dramatically. As the 18th MP to be appointed to this role, I am pleased that recognising disabled people’s abilities and providing support to enable them to realise their aspirations is higher up the agenda than ever before. Innovations such as the creation of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), a benefit that helps people with the extra costs of being disabled, have been a huge step forward. PIP targets support at those who need it most and considers needs arising from all impairments equally and consistently.
A priority for me will be ensuring that we build on early improvements to the PIP claimant’s experience. We must work closely with our providers to deliver a good, joined-up service. Access to Work, a scheme that provides funding to support disabled people in the workplace, is also improving employment outcomes and quality of life for thousands.
Under the coalition, the support this scheme provided was expanded to make sure those with mental health conditions were not left behind. There is more to do and I am committed to overseeing a large increase in the number of people Access to Work is able to support – not only to get but, crucially, to stay in jobs.
As Minister for Disabled People, I want to increase the number that the Access to Work scheme can help, not only to get jobs but also to stay in them.
Shortly before the election, George Osborne announced funding of £40 million to provide specialist support in jobcentres for people with mental health conditions. We can now get on and deliver this, providing a more joined-up approach with healthcare and other support services to ensure that earlier interventions work to protect people’s careers and livelihoods. Mental health remains an issue that many do not feel comfortable talking about. Perhaps that is why employers, too, often ignore it and fail to offer the right support. The outcome of this failure is that too many people who experience mental health difficulties do not work. Initiatives encouraging people to talk openly about mental health and challenging negative stereotypes will help to level the playing field for those with mental health conditions in the jobs market.
The government can lead in this area. In the past two years, the fantastic Disability Confident campaign, which aims to remove barriers to work for disabled people, has attracted more than 60 partners, including major businesses, and has reached thousands of employers.
The latest statistics show a year-on-year increase of 238,000 disabled people in work – the equivalent of more than 650 more for every day of the year. But we are not complacent – we want to help more disabled people into work as part of our wider aim to achieve the highest employment rate in the G7. My job is to ensure that happens.
By Victoria Heath