Recently I attended a meeting of the All Party Parliament Group on Disability and Learning Disability. 

This took place on 5 November in the Thatcher Room of Portcullis House in the Houses of Parliament.  The room was named after the late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the corridors outside were decorated with pictures of her and other politicians.

The Welfare Reform and Work Bill 

The first person to speak at the meeting was the Minster for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson.  He spoke about the Government’s Welfare Reform and Work Bill.  Tomlinson said that he wants to be approachable and meet with other people to talk about their concerns.  He said that only 15% of people with autism are expected to find work and he does not consider that acceptable. 

Tomlinson said that he feels that more needs to be done to attract and interest small-to-medium firms to hire people with learning difficulties and disabilities.  A pilot scheme was being investigated where members of these firms would be invited to events run by different charities to consider hiring people with disabilities. 

The issue of disability poverty

The next people to speak were Victoria Holloway and Phil Reynolds who were the Co-chairs of the Disability Benefits Consortium.  They spoke about the difficulties that people had suffered and their concern that Disability poverty was increasing.  They also spoke about the concern that they people who assess benefit claimants, may not understand long term health issues.

A young woman called Rebecca spoke about her experiences having Prader-Willi Syndrome.  She currently works one day a week as an administrator and wants to move out of her parents’ house and become independent.  She talked about her ESA being withdrawn by mistake and feeling that she did not get much help from the job centre. 

My question to the Minister for Disabled People

Then it was time to ask questions from the audience.  I managed to ask a question to Justin Tomlinson, which you can listen to in my video report.  Other people spoke about how the changes in ESA might affect them and other concerns. 

After the meeting, I talked with Victoria Holland and Ismail Kaji from Mencap about the meeting and the proposed changes for my latest video. 

Watch my latest report to find out more about the proposed cuts to the WRAG element of ESA.

This meeting showed how contentious a topic this is and how different people’s experiences can be.  I hope that a similarly large range of points of view are discussed and taken into account by the government before a final decision is made, because their chosen course of action could affect thousands of people like me and Rebecca.

David Allkins, news correspondent

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