HAYES IN THE HOUSE: By MP John Hayes
The growth in employment over recent years has been a quiet miracle, with over two million more people in work than in 2010, and 680,000 fewer workless households over the same period. The opportunity to gain meaningful employment has touched all kinds of lives.
Today, there are more than 3 million disabled people in work, an increase of nearly 300,000 in the last 2 years. That’s not just quantitatively significant, it’s qualitative too; it’s about people with all kinds of challenges having a chance to benefit from the advantages that come from having a job. People with disabilities deserve the chance to live independent lives, including having the opportunity to enjoy the daily interactions of the workplace and the friendships forged there.
Whilst so many of those who can work are seeing their lives transformed, those who suffer from conditions which mean they cannot work are rightly being supported. Spending on disabled people rose by £3 billion in the last 5 years. It’s the mark of a compassionate society that we devote appropriate support to those with the greatest need. Such is the responsibility of the advantaged.
This past week, it was was right to confirm so that changes to Personal Independence Payments will not go ahead. By increasing the resources from £60 million to £100 million as part of the changes to Employment and Support Allowance, the Government will help more disabled people to meet their aspiration to get a job. This year we will spend £50 billion supporting disabled people – that’s more than the entire defence budget.
Employers must play their part too, and the excellent Disability Confident campaign is doing great work to remove barriers to disabled people by highlighting the contribution they can make in the workplace.
Throughout my life in politics I’ve campaigned for disabled people, beginning 30 years ago with my work defending the interests of children with special needs. My determination to do so is shaped by a straightforward idea - that in an unfair, unequal world those with advantage should use it to fight for those in need.
Locally, being President of the Spalding Parkinson’s Society and of the Lincolnshire Brain Tumour Support Group provides me with greater understanding of a range of needs. Learning about the challenges faced by people obliged to cope with trauma or live with disability informs all I do and so I was honoured to be named the Parliamentary Disability Charity Champion a few years ago.
Disabled people know from experience what works for them and what doesn’t, which is why they should be at the very heart of a conversation about how to make support more effective. We must work with healthcare professionals and employers to ensure that everything is done to transform people’s lives and improve their life chances.