Ministers are refusing to commission work that would cost just £125 and would show how many disabled people are in full-time paid employment, and how that number has changed under successive Tory-led governments.
Ministers, including the current work and pensions secretary Esther McVey, have repeatedly boasted of how their policies have led to an increase of hundreds of thousands of disabled people in work, including a rise of nearly 600,000 between April 2013 and June 2017.
But those claims are based on figures provided by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which includes in its measure of “employment” people who are in part-time work, are self-employed, and those in government-supported training and employment programmes.
This means there are no published government figures that show how many disabled people are in full-time paid employment, and how that number has risen or fallen under successive governments since 2010.
To try to find those statistics, Disability News Service (DNS) submitted a freedom of information request to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), asking for figures for each of the last 10 years for how many disabled people were in full-time, paid jobs.
DWP replied that “this information is not held by the department” and suggested that DNS approach ONS instead.
ONS also said that it did not have that information but explained that it would probably take its experts less than half a day to produce them from existing sets of data, and that it would charge £125 (plus VAT) to do so.
When passed this response and asked why Sarah Newton (pictured), the minister for disabled people, had so far shown no interest in producing these figures – and whether she would now commission the necessary work from ONS – a DWP spokeswoman declined to answer.
Instead, she sent a lengthy statement which explained the role of ONS and praised its independence.
In the statement, she said the ONS definition of employment was “in line with internationally agreed principles of what constitutes employment, and which allow comparisons of the UK with other countries”.
She added: “This definition of employment includes not just people employed in full-time employee jobs; but reflects other forms of work that exist in our economy, including part-time employment; self-employment; and people on government training schemes and employment programmes.”
Asked again if Newton could explain why she appeared to have no interest in asking for these figures to be produced, when they would show how many disabled people were in full-time paid employment, the DWP spokeswoman refused to add to her statement, and said: “That’s our response to your query.”
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