The new minister for disabled people has deleted a social media post in which she bragged about the millions of pounds being spent on her department’s new disability employment website.
Claire Coutinho posted a tweet last week which included a video of her welcoming a “new £6.4 million online service” which aims to provide information for employers on how to support disabled people in the workplace.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) launched an early version of the new “service” on the same day last week, describing it as “a new £6.4 million online service to help employers better support disabled people and those with health conditions in the workplace”.
But when Disability News Service (DNS) tested the £6.4 million Support with Employee Health and Disability service, it was just a series of web pages that offer advice to employers and managers in different situations.
DNS asked the DWP press office how a series of web pages with advice for employers could possibly cost £6.4 million.
Shortly after DNS contacted DWP’s press office about her comments, Coutinho (pictured) deleted her tweet.
She had made her comments while at the annual Disability Power 100 awards event, run by the charity Shaw Trust, which has DWP employment contracts worth tens of millions of pounds a year and sponsors several special schools.
A DWP spokesperson confirmed yesterday that the £6.4 million covered the “design, development and maintenance of the website”.
He said in a statement: “The figure of £6.4 million relates to an extensive programme of work over a three-year period, to design, develop and maintain the Support with Employee Health and Disability service, an early and limited version of which has entered public testing.
“The service continues to be developed and expanded in response to feedback from small business users and expert stakeholders, with spend on areas including detailed research, digital build, management and marketing costs.”
Meanwhile, the new prime minister, Rishi Sunak, has sacked work and pensions secretary Chloe Smith – who had been a strong supporter of his predecessor, Liz Truss – and replaced her with Mel Stride, who chaired the Treasury select committee from January 2020 until this week.
Coutinho, who repeatedly tweeted her support for Sunak before his confirmation as the Conservative party’s new leader this week, appears to have kept her role as minister for disabled people.
Despite only being in post a few weeks, Coutinho has already drawn criticism from disabled people for telling DNS at her party’s annual conference that she was “not aware” of the social model of disability and so was unable to say how it would impact her work as the disability minister.
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