When the Prime Minister appointed me as the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work back in September, I was honoured. I couldn’t wait to get stuck in and continue the work that was already underway to improve the lives of disabled people and those with long term health conditions.
2021 was a testament to all of those involved, and of the hard work of my predecessor Justin Tomlinson.
In July, the National Disability Strategy was published – this is the first truly cross-Government effort to transform disabled people’s everyday lives, with over 100 commitments to advance in all areas from transport to education, to sport and employment. Thank you to everyone, many of whom are Able Magazine readers, who helped shape it.
Six months on, we’re already making progress on delivering it. For me, one highlight is the University of Wolverhampton and Manchester Metropolitan University leading the way in a trial of the Access to Work Adjustment Passport. The aim of this is to ease the transition from university into employment by reducing the need for repeated health assessments when starting a new job. If it goes how we hope, then it could help thousands of graduates across the country.
Elsewhere, our new Ministerial Disability Champions have also now been appointed in every government department and we are meeting regularly to ensure the commitments outlined in the strategy remain of utmost importance. I look forward to continuing our meetings throughout the year to ensure we continue to deliver on our promises.
Speaking of meetings, in the formative stages of my role I have enjoyed engaging with disabled people and organisations, including a fantastic visit to supported employer Watford Workshop, meeting disabled staff at Disability Confident leader, the Hilton London Metropole Hotel, and seeing for myself how Disability Confident leader, People Matters, helps disabled jobseekers in Leeds.
I was privileged to host a roundtable at No10 Downing Street with disabled people and disabled people’s organisations to mark International Day of People with Disabilities. This provided valuable insight and showed that while we are making progress in improving the lives of disabled people, there is still much more to do in 2022 and beyond.
Looking ahead into the new year, we have every reason to be optimistic. With a successful vaccine rollout, we are in a strong position. I’d ask readers to continue to follow the guidance to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
There will be plenty more landmark moments over the next 12 months – one of which Able Magazine readers will be well aware of is the publishing of the Health and Disability White Paper. Thank you for your co-operation and input on the Green Paper and consultation last year. This will help shape the future of the benefits system so that it better fits those who need it most. We’ve listened to your thoughts and opinions, and we look forward to bringing them forward.
As we look to build back better, the future is bright for all, disabled people included.