The minister for disabled people and the work and pensions secretary have both failed to sign up to their department’s discredited disability employment scheme, Disability Confident.
The latest update to Disability Confident membership shows that neither Tom Pursglove nor Mel Stride have yet signed up, more than two months after they were appointed as work and pensions ministers.
Disability Confident was launched in 2013, while Pursglove has been an MP since May 2015, and Stride since May 2010.
The much-criticised scheme aims to encourage employers to “think differently about disability and take action to improve how they recruit, retain and develop disabled people”.
But in November 2016, DWP was declared a Disability Confident “leader” – the highest of the scheme’s three levels – days before it was found guilty of “grave or systematic violations” of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
In July 2020, a company that bragged of being a Disability Confident leader sacked more than 50 disabled staff when it fell into administration, and then hired mostly non-disabled agency staff to replace them.
And in October 2018, the government-funded British Council, which is responsible for promoting the UK’s culture and education abroad, asked an employment tribunal to allow it to dodge its Equality Act duty not to discriminate against disabled people, despite being a member of Disability Confident.
In the same year, nearly 7,000 employers that signed up to Disability Confident promised to provide just 4,500 new jobs for disabled people between them, less than one per employer.
Pursglove’s three predecessors as disability minister, Claire Coutinho, Chloe Smith and Justin Tomlinson, are all members of the scheme.
Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, is also a Disability Confident member.
Former work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey eventually signed up, after her failure to join the scheme was exposed by Disability News Service (DNS) in October 2020, more than a year after she had been appointed secretary of state.
Other current and former DWP ministers who scrabbled to sign up after DNS began asking questions about ministerial commitment to the scheme in March 2020 included Will Quince, Esther McVey, Mark Harper and Maria Miller.
One notable former DWP minister who has never signed up to the scheme is Iain Duncan Smith, even though he helped launch it as work and pensions secretary in 2013 and, like other ministers, employs staff to help with his duties as an MP.
Pursglove and Stride had both failed to comment by noon today (Thursday).
A DWP spokesperson refused to comment.
Picture: Mel Stride (left) and Tom Pursglove
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