AN MP has raised the plight of unemployed disabled people after discovering just seven per cent of them have found work through a government scheme in his constituency.
Alex Cunningham, Labour MP for Stockton North, told the House of Commons that 860 disabled people in Stockton North had been referred to the Government’s Work Programme, which is designed to help them into work.
However only 60 had found jobs and Mr Cunningham claimed the Government had shown “utter contempt for disabled people in Stockton North by refusing to address the clear issues that exist.”
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Under the Work Programme, organisations from both the private and public sectors are contracted to get people into work.
Mr Cunningham raised the issue during a debate in the House of Commons on Thursday in which he questioned Mike Penning, Government minister for disabled people.
He said: "In my Stockton North constituency, 860 disabled people have been referred to the Work programme, but only 60 have found employment as a result.
“Does the Minister agree that a seven per cent success rate is appalling, and will he tell the House what he will do to ensure Work Programme contractors provide greater specialist support for disabled people to help get them into work?”
Mr Penning responded by saying: "There was only one Government who abandoned disabled people on the Work programme and that was the previous administration, and that is the truth. We will not allow that to happen."
Speaking after the exchange, Mr Cunningham said: “The minister is in denial that the government’s key programme to help the long-term unemployed and those with additional and complex needs is collapsing around him.
"But what’s worse is the utter contempt he has shown for disabled people in Stockton North by refusing to address the clear issues that exist.
“Over £1bn has been spent on the Work Programme, yet those who go through the programme are more likely to return to the Jobcentre than they are to secure sustained employment.”
James Wharton, Conservative MP for Stockton South, defended the Government’s record on the issue.
He said: “Nearly ten per cent of disabled people referred to the Work Programme in his constituency are now in work.
"These are not easy cases and we should not forget that every decimal point percentage change means someone's life has been transformed for the better, it compares rather favourably to the legacy Labour left behind.”