Kit Malthouse (MP) met with members of Test Valley Disabilities Forum and representatives of local disability-related charities recently at The Guildhall.
The local MP gave a short speech on government priorities for seeing disabled people access work and the independence and dignity that can bring, and the potential of Universal Credit to make it easier to take up full-time or part-time work in a way that pays.
He also shared a forthcoming Disability Confident event at Enham in March to encourage employers to feel confident in employing disabled people. He then answered both pre-prepared questions and questions from the floor.
In response to pre-prepared questions, Kit explained in detail why he had voted for the recent change to ESA and also discussed a question on the work capability assessment for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and links to data on suicide and mental health issues.
He confirmed the government decision to accept the ruling that people with mental health issues should be able to receive the mobility element of PIP and gave an insight into the financial consequences of that. He talked about the potential for specially trained work coaches to help disabled people into work and how to access them. He responded to comments on the UN ruling about UK not doing enough for disabled people.
He discussed the reasons behind regular PIP reassessments for life-long conditions. Ways for veterans to access decent life assurance were shared. The number of young people on JSA or UC work programmes having to attend sessions in other towns was also broached.
Taking questions from the floor, Kit talked about why the view of an ESA assessor was held to overrule that of a GP or consultant. He listened to people sharing how they feel cuts have been affecting disabled people and said he needed people to write to him on this subject with more specific details.
Another matter where he also needs to people to write in with evidence concerns provision for physically disabled children in schools in Andover. He asserted his belief that Universal Credit will be a positive change for those who can only work part-time. He informed us that details on the replacement for the work-choice programme may not be available for a while yet. He made it clear that discrimination faced by those with hearing problems who use a hearing dog is illegal discrimination and should be properly reported with details.
Home-working for disabled people was discussed and Kit Malthouse is in favour of this becoming a more frequent practice and encouraging employers to embrace it. He had a response ready to a question about PIP appeals and how many result in overturning the initial decision. He also defended the questions used in PIP assessments. He did acknowledge that there may need to a review into Access to Work to help more blind and partially sighted people into work.
There were questions that Kit was not able to answer on the day. A question over the review of the blue badge scheme is going to be referred to the Department for Transport. He will look into a question about people with epilepsy or schizoid-affective disorder accessing work. He will also be interested in finding out more about how rules over the funding of day care centres are affecting choice.
The MP for North West Hampshire was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Family Support, Housing and Child Maintenance at the Department of Work and Pensions on 9th January 2018.
In March 2016, Malthouse was asked by Andover’s MS Society to step down from his role as a patron after the charity felt he was no longer suitable for the role as he had recently voted to cut ESA to the same level as JSA for those in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG).