Belfast Telegraph

Stephen Crabb makes finding work for disabled people priority as new DWP chief

The new Work and Pensions Secretary has pledged to make supporting disabled people into jobs one of his priorities.

In his first major speech in the job, Stephen Crabb said the gap between the employment rate for disabled and non-disabled people was "simply unacceptable".

But despite talking of the need for reform, one charity said it was disappointed to hear little of how the Government will overturn the "harmful effects" from the past six years of cuts to benefits and the social care sector.

Mr Crabb told a meeting of the Early Intervention Foundation in London that 300,000 more disabled people had moved into work over the past two years.

Despite this, the employment rate for non-disabled people was 80%, compared with less than 50% for the disabled.

"In the context of a very strong labour market and the millions of people that have moved into work over the last few years, that gap is simply unacceptable.

"This employment gap isn't because of a lack of aspiration on the part of sick and disabled people. We know the majority want to work or stay in work.

"Some attitudes held by society have stopped disabled people from moving into work for many decades. I want to challenge health and care professionals, employers and wider society to break down those barriers."

Mr Crabb said he was committed to press ahead with rolling out Universal Credit, which will be available in all jobcentres for the first time this month.

"The next stage will be the ambitious full rollout, so that every person, in every circumstance, who steps into a job centre for the first time will be on Universal Credit. That will be my focus in the months ahead."

Rossanna Trudgian, head of campaigns at the learning disability charity Mencap, said: "Disabled people will be disappointed to hear little in Stephen Crabb's first major speech as to how this Government will overturn the harmful effects from the past six years of cuts to benefits and the social care sector.

"The Government's commitment to halve the disability employment gap is a noble one which the Secretary of State reiterated today, but the heavily criticised cut to Employment and Support Allowance and equivalent in Universal Credit, flies in the face of this commitment, with almost half of disabled people saying this cut will mean they return to work later."

Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: "Universal Credit, which could have been a worthy tool for the 'all-out assault on poverty' that Crabb promises, has been crippled by repeated Treasury raids so that it will now leave people worse off than under the current system and ministers refuse to say what impact it will have on the number of people in poverty.

"What we now need is action to match the rhetoric, or else Stephen Crabb will be faced with the very real threat that this Government's main social policy legacy could be the biggest rise in child poverty for a generation."