Justin Tomlinson debates involving the Cabinet Office during the 2019 Parliament

Wed 25th November 2020
15 interactions (326 words)
Wed 23rd September 2020
19 interactions (595 words)

Oral Answers to Questions

Justin Tomlinson Excerpts
Wednesday 25th November 2020

(11 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Cabinet Office
Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP)
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What steps she is taking to ensure the adequacy of support for disabled people on legacy benefits during the covid-19 outbreak. [909389]

Justin Tomlinson Portrait The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work (Justin Tomlinson)
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The Government are committed to supporting disabled people affected by the covid-19 outbreak. We are ensuring that disabled people continue to have access to disability benefits and other financial support during it.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady
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I wonder whether the Minister is aware that the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has shown that nearly half of people in poverty in the UK are either themselves disabled or live in a household with someone who is. As he says, covid has exacerbated that hardship, and the inequalities disabled people face will only be exacerbated by the fact that those who are on not on universal credit will not have benefited from the uplift of £20 that was applied to UC. So has he, or anyone else in the Government, carried out an equalities impact assessment on the decision not to extend the £20 uplift to legacy benefits?

Justin Tomlinson Portrait Justin Tomlinson
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Those on legacy benefits will have benefited from the 1.7% uplift as part of the annual upratings. Depending on individual circumstances, they may have also benefited from the changes to the local housing allowance; the increases in discretionary housing support; the various employment support schemes; and the additional discretionary support administered via local authorities. This year alone we anticipate expenditure on disability benefits to increase by nearly 5%.

Anne McLaughlin Portrait Anne McLaughlin (Glasgow North East) (SNP) [V]
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The reason my Scottish National party colleagues and I, and others, have repeatedly called for this £20 uplift is that covid-19 costs people with disabilities significantly more money than it does most others, yet they have been completely ignored. Last week, a petition from the Disability Benefits Consortium calling for the £20 uplift, which had 119,000 signatures, was handed in to the Chancellor. As the Minister who represents the interests of people with disabilities, did he ask the Chancellor to do this in today’s spending review? If not, what did he ask for?

Justin Tomlinson Portrait Justin Tomlinson
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As I have already set out, we anticipate spending on disability benefits to increase by 4.6%; we are talking about close to £20 billion and that is targeted support for those who most need it.

Vicky Foxcroft Portrait Vicky Foxcroft (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab)
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What steps the Government are taking to help protect disabled people from the effects of the covid-19 outbreak. [909391]

Justin Tomlinson Portrait The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work (Justin Tomlinson)
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The Government are committed to supporting disabled people affected by the covid-19 outbreak. We are ensuring that disabled people continue to have access to employment support, disability benefits, financial support, food, medicines, accessible communications and updated guidance.

Vicky Foxcroft Portrait Vicky Foxcroft [V]
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Data published by Scope this week shows that the disability employment gap stands at a shocking 29.2% nationwide. Many are fearful that the gap will increase with the economic fallout of covid-19. We clearly need a long-term, multi-pronged approach to address this deeply entrenched issue, so will the Minister commit to examining Scope’s five policy asks and work with his Department for Work and Pensions colleagues to put them into practice?

Justin Tomlinson Portrait Justin Tomlinson
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I put on the record a tribute to the proactive and constructive work of Scope and many other organisations to support our efforts, which have resulted in record disability employment—up 1.3 million since 2010. Yes, these are unprecedented times, but we have made sure that all the schemes in our £30 billion plan for jobs have disability provision embedded. We will continue with our ambition to have 1 million more disabled people in work by 2027—nothing has changed.

Wendy Chamberlain Portrait Wendy Chamberlain (North East Fife) (LD)
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What steps the Government are taking to tackle institutional racism. [909393]

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Andrew Jones Portrait Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con)
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The impact of the pandemic on unemployment is being felt in every constituency. It is more important than ever to ensure that those living with disabilities are treated equally in the recruitment process, so what steps is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that protections that support equality throughout the recruitment process stay prominent as we focus now on recovery? [909425]

Justin Tomlinson Portrait The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work (Justin Tomlinson)
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I thank my hon. Friend who is a real champion for disability employment opportunities in his constituency. As part of our £30 billion plan for jobs, disability provision is embedded throughout our schemes, including in kick-start, the job entry targeted support scheme, sector-based academies, apprenticeships, the health and work programme, intensive personalised employment support and access to work. We remind employers that, under the Equality Act 2010, they must focus on ability, not health or disability.

Virendra Sharma Portrait Mr Virendra Sharma (Ealing, Southall) (Lab) [V]
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I will be hosting a national group of experts on decolonising the British curriculum in January 2021. Will the Secretary of State attend that event to listen to the expert testimonies from the academics regarding this important issue? [909428]

Oral Answers to Questions

Justin Tomlinson Excerpts
Wednesday 23rd September 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber

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Cabinet Office
Debbie Abrahams Portrait Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab)
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What assessment she has made of the effect on disabled people of the covid-19 outbreak. [906534]

Justin Tomlinson Portrait The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work (Justin Tomlinson)
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The Government are committed to supporting disabled people affected by the covid-19 outbreak. We continue to monitor the impact of covid-19 on disabled people using existing and new data sources.

Debbie Abrahams Portrait Debbie Abrahams
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Between March and July, disabled people, including people with a health condition or impairment, accounted for almost 60% of all covid deaths, yet a survey of disabled people in Greater Manchester revealed that eight out of 10 were not included in the official Government shielded group, in spite of 57% having significant support needs. With the second wave upon us, what is the Secretary of State doing to ensure that all clinically vulnerable people are shielded and properly supported?

Justin Tomlinson Portrait Justin Tomlinson
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That is a really important point. Through my work as the Minister for Disabled People and in conjunction with the Disability Unit, for which I am responsible, where stakeholders identify challenges around support for those who were shielding, we raise that with the relevant Minister. Obviously, shielding has come to an end, and that is kept under review. We must ensure that people feel safe, particularly those who are seeking to work. We expect employers to act in accordance with the Equality Act 2010. Working with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Health and Safety Executive and ACAS, we are publishing helpful guidance to ensure that there is sufficient support for those who are coming out of shielding and returning to normality.

Caroline Nokes Portrait Caroline Nokes (Romsey and Southampton North) (Con)
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The charity SignHealth has been working to provide British Sign Language translation for covid sufferers in health settings free of charge since the pandemic began. It has submitted a grant application to the Department of Health and Social Care, but so far that has not been awarded. Will my hon. Friend use his best endeavours with colleagues at that Department to get this apparent blockage shifted? As we seek to avoid a second wave of the virus, we also have to ensure that deaf people who are reliant on BSL as their main form of communication are not disadvantaged in their access to information.

Justin Tomlinson Portrait Justin Tomlinson
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I know that, through my right hon. Friend’s work as Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, there is no stronger advocate for accessible communications. Stakeholders rightly raise this issue time and again, and through the Disability Unit, we have reminded all Departments of the importance of it. It sounds to me like SignHealth has provided a wonderful service. I know that the DHSC values good services, and I will encourage the relevant Minister to look at this personally and respond as quickly as possible.

Anne McLaughlin Portrait Anne McLaughlin (Glasgow North East) (SNP)
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Before I ask my question, I would like to pay tribute to the many people out there with disabilities who have been helping others during the pandemic. It is important to keep saying that having a disability does not stop someone contributing. However, for many people, their disability prevents them from having a job, and they are dependent on social security payments. Sometimes they have to jump through hoops to prove that they are disabled enough to “deserve” those payments. Face-to-face work capability assessments are on hold right now, understandably, but the wait is causing untold stress, so will the Minister represent the needs of those people to the Work and Pensions Secretary and join me in calling for paper-based assessments to be made available to everyone?

Justin Tomlinson Portrait Justin Tomlinson
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That is a really good question. First, the hon. Lady is absolutely right about people wanting to contribute. If we ask any disabled person, they want to have the same opportunities that anyone else would take for granted. Rightly, we had to suspend face-to-face assessments. We have used paper-based reviews where possible, and we are bringing telephone assessments into the WCA in the same way that we have done with personal independence payments, which is warmly welcomed by stakeholders. In the long term, as part of the Green Paper in the coming months, we will be exploring better ways to reform the assessment and increase the likelihood of being able to do paper-based reviews wherever possible, predominantly where we are able to get better-quality medical evidence.

Claire Coutinho Portrait Claire Coutinho (East Surrey) (Con)
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What steps she is taking to encourage girls and young women to take up STEM subjects. [906535]

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Olivia Blake Portrait Olivia Blake (Sheffield, Hallam) (Lab)
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What recent discussions she has with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on an equality impact assessment of the level of statutory sick pay. [906545]

Justin Tomlinson Portrait The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work (Justin Tomlinson)
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Statutory sick pay is increased annually through uprating, which does not require an equality impact assessment. Individuals requiring further financial support may receive it through the welfare system.

Olivia Blake Portrait Olivia Blake
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Research by my union, the GMB, has shown that a failure to raise statutory sick pay to Liverpool rates has had serious detrimental effects on particular groups in our society. The status quo is disproportionately harming women workers, older workers, disabled workers, black and minority ethnic workers, workers who hold particular religious beliefs and workers who are married or in a civil partnership. Does the Minister agree that the Government should do an equality impact assessment of these policies and do more to ensure that statutory sick pay is set at a liveable rate?

Justin Tomlinson Portrait Justin Tomlinson
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Equality impact assessments are taken when there are policy changes, not part of the annual uprating exercise. That said, statutory sick pay should not be looked at in isolation because individuals, subject to their own circumstances, could access additional support from their employer, universal credit, or new-style employment and support allowance. We have recently concluded the consultation “Health is everyone’s business” in which many of these issues were raised and we will be publishing our reviews. We understand the points that the hon. Member has raised.

Philippa Whitford Portrait Dr Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) (SNP)
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What steps her Department is taking to support older people during the covid-19 outbreak. [906549]

Justin Tomlinson Portrait The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work (Justin Tomlinson)
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Our priority has been to continue delivering the state pension and pension credit to new and existing customers. We also supported those in the shielding group who would normally have had to rely on cash through the post office to cover their weekly outgoings.

Philippa Whitford Portrait Dr Whitford
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We know that elderly and disabled people, especially those living alone, are less likely to access online platforms. During this covid pandemic, knowing the rules and understanding the ideas and information behind them is critical, so will this UK Government be re-establishing regular briefings, including British Sign Language translation, as we have in Scotland, so that no one misses out on vital information?

Justin Tomlinson Portrait Justin Tomlinson
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The hon. Member is absolutely right to highlight the importance of accessible communications. It was an issue raised particularly in the early stages that we then shared cross-Government. I am delighted that BSL, for example, was then picked up by the BBC and that is then provided. Yesterday, the Prime Minister’s statement to the House was also simultaneously interpreted by a BSL interpreter. That was a very valid point to raise.

Jamie Stone Portrait Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD)
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What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the effect of the covid-19 outbreak on the training and competition opportunities for young (a) female and (b) disabled athletes preparing to take part in the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024 and beyond. [906561]