Amber Rudd has announced that she will review the government’s target of getting one million more disabled people in work by 2027, with a view to making it more ambitious.
Age at work
The work and pensions secretary made the pledge at a speech today with disability charity Scope, where announced that 270,000 pensioners will no longer face repeat assessments so they can continue to receive disability benefits.
From this spring, they will no longer have to have their personal independence payments (PIPs) reviewed in order to receive the benefit.
PIPs are designed to help disabled people with the extra costs associated with their health condition, and recipients can get up to £145.35 per week.
Rudd discussed her father’s blindness and how that impacted his life. “My father became blind in 1981. For thirty-six years his blindness was a normal part of my family’s life. Of my life,” she said.
“I reflected on my father’s lack of sight, and how it affected his life and the lives of those who loved him, as I considered my role in supporting disabled people in Britain. Disabled pensioners have paid into our system for their whole lives and deserve the full support of the state when they need it most.
“This government, therefore, intends to change the landscape for disabled people in Britain: to level the terrain and smooth their path.”
PIPs have in the past been widely criticised by disability charities, who believe they fail to take into account mental health conditions properly and leave many pensioners feeling under threat that the benefit will be taken away if they fail their review.
Claire Turner, director of evidence at the Centre for Ageing Better, welcomed the government’s support for getting more disabled people into work.
She said: “ONS figures show more than a third of people aged 50 to 64 years are out of work. Estimates suggest a million would like to work but can’t. For many people, this is because of ill-health or disability
“With the right support from employers, through flexible working options and common sense adaptations, more people could be helped to be in work. Workplaces need to do more to make sure that good quality work becomes the standard, not the exception. Employers must promote flexible working, be more age-friendly, and better support workers with health conditions and disabilities.”
But she said the government needed to provide “more than just targets”.
She added: “Government must promote a joined-up approach to support people with disabilities in work and give guidance to employers and workers on what support is available.”
Mark Hodgkinson, chief executive at Scope, said he welcomed the change to PIP assessments but said there needed to be a “more radical overhaul” to the benefits system for disabled people.
“Disabled people also want to see action taken to scrap counterproductive benefit sanctions. They make it harder for disabled people to get into work,” he said.