Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud has issued a "full and unreserved apology" after suggesting that some disabled people are "not worth" the minimum wage.

You can hear a recording of Lord Freud’s comments on the BBC website.

Think tank The Adam Smith Institute has defended Lord Freud's comments regarding disabled workers. Sam Bowman, research director, said the Conservative welfare minister had been "shamefully mistreated" by Labour leader Ed Miliband, who has called for Freud to resign after he suggested some disabled workers are "not worth" the full minimum wage.

Mr Bowman said: "His (Freud's) point was that the market value of some people’s wages is below the minimum wage. This is often true of the severely disabled and can have appalling consequences for their self-esteem and quality of life." He added: "To point out that someone’s market value is less than minimum wage has nothing to do with their moral value as human beings. "Freud’s point was that we should help people in this situation by allowing them to find jobs paying below the minimum wage and topping up their pay directly to make up the difference."

We at United Response find these comments deeply worrying.  At United Response we believe in equality for all, in all aspects of life - and that includes people with profound disabilities. We know that gaining employment is one of the best ways to get involved in part of your community and to combat isolation and there are a huge range of success stories that prove it.

It is true that some people struggle to find employment and need additional support to do so, but with the right support we know there is every chance of success.

We have numerous examples where this has happened and where people with disabilities gain employment and are paid on a par with others. Lord Freud's comments suggest that we need to help employers with the financial burden of employing someone with a ‘lower market value’ but our experience is quite the opposite. Employers not only gain reliable motivated staff, but also often talk about the added value of increased morale within the workplace as a result; arguably a ‘greater market value’, not a lesser one.

The ASI has defended Lord Freud’s comments and suggested that what he was trying to say was that some people with disabilities could be paid less than minimum wage by their employer and that this could then be ‘topped up’ by a government subsidy. Such a system would not only be open to serious abuse, but, for what it would cost to 'subsidise' wages it would be cheaper to invest in supported employment, something which we know works.

Disabled people are equals and do not need to be seen as objects of pity. Yes, subsidise their support, invest in the numerous specialist supported employment services that have existed for years, but don’t allow employers to see them as anything other than valuable contributors to their workforce.

Shan Nicholas, interim chief executive.