Chloe Smith – 2022 Statement on Disability

The statement made by Chloe Smith, the Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions, in the House of Commons on 13 June 2022.

The aim of this Government, as set out in our manifesto commitment, is to transform the everyday lives of disabled people across the country.

We are also working towards equality on the global stage, through both the example we set here in the UK and our international co-operation. On 13 June, as the UK Minister for Disabled People, I will travel to the 15th session of the conference of states parties to the convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. Participating in bilateral meetings and wider debates, I will meet my global counterparts with the aim of strengthening the international political commitment for the rights of disabled people.

Our ambition is clear: to deliver long-term change through practical actions and wide-ranging policies across Government which enable disabled people to live full and independent lives.

We are delivering on this ambition. We have seen 1.3 million more disabled people in work than in 2017—delivering a Government commitment five years early. And since 2013, the general trend in disability employment has been positive, with strong growth in the number and rate of disabled people in employment and a narrowing of the disability employment gap. Over the next three years, the Government will invest £1.3 billion in employment support for disabled people and people with health conditions. We have supported the introduction of the British Sign Language Act 2022 and the Down Syndrome Act 2022 in the last Parliament, and we will be publishing our health and disability White Paper later this year which will set out more important work.

In July 2021 we published the national disability strategy, which set out our ambition to improve the lives of millions of disabled people. It was a turning point in Government commitment to co-ordinate disability policy, setting out in a high-level framework document over 100 cross-Government initiatives driving change in all parts of society.

However, in January 2022, the High Court declared the strategy unlawful because the UK Disability Survey, which informed it, was held to be a voluntary consultation that failed to comply with the legal requirements on public consultations. We strongly disagree with this finding and are disappointed that the declaration prevents us from taking forward some of our important work. The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey), has therefore sought permission to appeal this decision from the Court of Appeal.

While awaiting a decision on permission to appeal from the Court of Appeal, we are required to take steps to comply with the Court’s declaration. The Secretary of State wants to minimise the risk of acting inconsistently with the Court’s declaration, without compromising on the ambitious agenda we are delivering for disabled people. As such, we are pausing a limited number of policies which are referred to in the strategy or are directly connected with it.

We remain committed to improving opportunities and outcomes for disabled people as we await the outcome of the appeal.

Our intent remains to create more opportunities for disabled people to participate and thrive; to protect and promote the rights of disabled people; and to tackle the barriers that prevent disabled people from fully benefiting from, and contributing to every aspect of our society. Ensuring the voice of disabled people is properly heard remains a priority for Government. We wish to continue to engage closely with disabled people and disabled people’s organisations.

We are committed to disability policy that supports all areas of life and taking action to create a society that works for everyone.