Q&A with Penny Mordaunt

Our Q&A with Penny Mordaunt, Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work posed tough questions. We were dismayed to receive these answers.

How would you sum up your first few months in the role? What are your hopes for the next few months?

I’ve been able to meet with a huge range of people and hear about the issues that matter to disabled people most, including the need for opportunities in the workplace so that they can enjoy the social and financial benefits that having a pay packet offers.

Looking ahead, I want to wake more businesses up to the value disabled people can bring, both as customers and employees, so that we can continue to break down the barriers across society which prevent disabled people from realising their potential.

I’ve created a Business Leaders Group – chaired by Tim Fallowfield of Sainsbury’s – to get business more involved in helping more disabled people into work. Starting a conversation between businesses is crucial in creating a long-term shift in attitudes. After all, Government can play its part, but it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that these opportunities are open to all.

I’ve also launched a campaign to recruit business sector champions to promote inclusivity and accessibility in their industries. I’m asking inspirational people to lead the way and encourage other businesses to benefit from the purple pound – the spending power of disabled people that’s too often ignored. Businesses have enormous power to create the change we need and now’s the time to get involved.

The Human Rights Act is set to be scrapped in favour of a British Bill of Rights. Whilst the new law may be prove to be an improvement on the old, there are grave concerns that some of the protections in the Human Rights Act that disabled people rely on could be lost. How will you ensure that disabled people’s interests are represented and protected? Is there anything you’d like to see added to the British Bill of Rights to extend the rights of disabled people?

This country has a proud tradition of protecting people’s human rights which long pre-dates the Human Rights Act, and I am confident that we will continue to do so in a British Bill of Rights.

But of course we know from the Equality Act that having a law is a necessary but not sufficient condition for equality. It must be enforced.

We’re committed to creating a Britain that works for everyone and that means disabled people having the same rights, opportunities and access as the wider population.

New Policy Institute report Disability and Poverty (August 2016) revealed that 3.9 million disabled people live in poverty. That’s approximately 1 in 3 disabled people living in poverty. It also reported high levels of material deprivation experienced by disabled people; 1 in 8 disabled adults are struggling or unable to pay the bills and make ends meet. What plans do you and the DWP have to address this?

We are committed to building a country that works for all of us and we’ve already made good progress – since 2010, the number of people living in poverty has fallen by 300,000. But we know we need to do more to tackle the root causes of poverty and that’s why my Department is working on a social justice green paper to outline our plans for the years ahead.

Personal Independence Payments are designed to help with the extra costs associated with being disabled, and I am exploring other ways to bring these costs down. We are building on the excellent work that Scope has done through the Extra Costs Commission to utilise the consumer power of disabled people.

My officials are talking to providers, in particular in energy and telecoms, to ensure more is done to raise awareness of the best value options that already exist. We are also looking to share good practice from local initiatives such as the scheme on the Isle of Wight which helps with the cost of travel to training opportunities on the island.

The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities have reported grave and systematic violations of the rights of disabled people. The government’s response to date has not acknowledged any of the criticisms made by the UN or put forward any assurances that the issues documented will be addressed. The evidence has been called “outdated”. Are we to understand that the DWP denies that any of the problems identified in the 3000 pages of evidence are still ongoing and unworthy of further discussion?

The UK spends more on disabled people and people with health conditions than the OECD average, and countries such as Canada, France and the USA, according to the OECD itself.

But we’re also supporting disabled people through the mobility component of PIP, Employment and Support Allowance, local welfare provision, support through the NHS, adult social care, Access to Work and the Disabled Facilities Grant.

We’re proud to be a world leader in equality and disability rights and we’re going even further with our Work and Health Green Paper, which is all about taking action to challenge attitudes, prejudices and misunderstandings about disabled people.

Questions by Fleur Perry

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  • Neil Moffatt

    A politician spouting rhetoric and failing to grasp even basic aspects of the questions asked. Utter failure to acknowledge DWP culpability. Indeed, cuckoo land politician, comfortable and remote and useless. Yet in charge. Anther example of entirely unqualified and incapable secretary of state.