HC Deb 17 November 1981 vol 13 cc159-60
Q2. Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

asked the Prime Minister what steps Her Majesty's Government are taking to increase job opportunities for the disabled and, in particular, the young disabled.

The Prime Minister

The Manpower Services Commission's "Fit for Work" campaign is designed to make employers aware of the abilities and potential of disabled workers. The National Advisory Council on Employment of Disabled People is arranging an in-depth study on how best to meet the needs of young disabled people.

The Government seek to promote the employment of disabled people through the job introduction scheme, employment rehabilitation courses, the funding of sheltered employment, and the work of the disablement resettlement officers in the MSC's jobcentres.

Mr. Bennett

Does the Prime Minister accept that the damage that she has done to the British economy has particularly harmed disabled people in their search for jobs? Is she aware that the most effective policy that she could pursue would be to insist that all firms obey the law and employ the 3 per cent. of disabled people that they are supposed to?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman disregards some of the facts. There are only about 1.9 per cent. of the work force on the disablement register and there are not enough for all firms to employ 3 per cent. of disabled people. That is why the Manpower Services Commission has been issuing permits for firms that wish to take on extra people, even though they are not up to their full disablement quota. The hon. Gentleman should take into account all the facts about the numbers of people who are disabled and actually on the register.

Mr. Hannam

In looking at this worrying problem, will my right hon. Friend take time to consider the example of West Germany where, by the use of a combined system of a 5 per cent. quota and levies on those who do not fulfil that quota, a 4.9 per cent. level of employment of disabled workers has been achieved?

The Prime Minister

I think that our problem here is that there are only about 1.9 per cent. on the disablement register. The present law requires firms with 20 or more employees to employ 3 per cent. of registered disabled people. It is not an offence to be below the quota. An employer in that position who wishes to engage anyone other than a registered disabled person must obtain a permit to do so. Firms are obtaining permits to do so at present because there are not sufficient disabled people to meet the quota.

Mr. Pavitt

Will the Prime Minister take steps to remove one of the anomalies that prevent blind people from getting employment? Is not she aware that they are the only disabled people who cannot move from outside employment back again to sheltered work shops and that they are the only disabled people who receive no mobility allowance, which militates against their accepting jobs where there are travelling problems?

The Prime Minister

I shall certainly examine what the hon. Gentleman has said. We are trying in every way to help the disabled to get work, as the special "Fit for Work" campaign demonstrates. We shall examine, in particular, the hon. Gentleman's point about mobility.

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