Social Justice

Uncertainty over minister for disabled people role sparks backlash: 'What message does this send?'

Campaigners are warning the DWP that it must appoint a minister for disabled people urgently to protect disabled people's rights

dwp

Disabled people's rights are at risk without a minister for disabled people, campaigners are warning. Image: Unsplash

There is currently no minister for disabled people, health and work – and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is under fire for refusing to provide clarity around a replacement.

It is the longest gap without a minister for disabled people in the last three decades. The role has been vacant since Tom Pursglove was appointed minister of state for legal migration and delivery on 7 December.

There have been allegations that Downing Street is planning to scrap the role, but this has not been confirmed by the DWP who said “ministerial announcements will be made in the usual way”.

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The Big Issue understands that the DWP is planning to appoint a minister for disabled people – but it has refused to officially confirm this. Downing Street told us to speak to the DWP.

The lack of clarity has angered disability campaigners and charities, who warn that the role is critical to protect disabled people.

James Taylor, director of strategy at disability equality charity Scope, said:  “This is an appalling and retrograde move by the government.

“What kind of message does this give to Britain’s 16 million disabled people? That – in the middle of a cost of living crisis – we are now less important?

“Life costs more if you are disabled. There hasn’t been cost of living payment for disabled people this winter. And negative welfare rhetoric has ramped up this year.  

“We must have a minister for disabled people in government, to be a champion of disabled people and disability, and make sure policy doesn’t leave people behind and disadvantaged.”

Sarah White, head of policy at the disability charity Sense, added: “The minister for disabled people is a vital role in government to ensure disabled people’s interests are represented. At a time where disabled people are in crisis, this role should not be vacant.

“Disabled people have been hit hard by cuts to social care and the cost of living crisis and are battling rising prices that have pushed far too many into debt. If the government is serious about tackling this crisis, an important step is appointing a minister for disabled people to look into the issue urgently, and to make the case for more financial support for disabled people.”

Since publication, the DWP has appointed Mims Davies as the minister for disabled people.

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