THIS week as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions I studied the newly released labour market statistics. Despite inflationary pressures (inflation is running at around 8.7% compared to 7.2% wage growth), there are some encouraging signs, writes MP Mel Stride.
The number of people in employment in the UK has increased to a new record high, with four million more people in work compared to 2010. Unemployment is also at a near record low of 3.8%, compared to 7.9% in 2010.
Within these figures there was confirmation that one million more disabled people are in work since 2017 – a target that has been met five years early.
The vast majority of people with mild or moderate physical health conditions want to work for the same reasons we all do but have often faced barriers. To go further, I have announced £58 million in funding this week to deliver a major new employment programme to support more than 25,000 people with health issues.
As well as supporting disabled people through access to employment, DWP has this week started issuing £150 cost of living payments to more than six million disabled people in the UK.
This follows the £150 that was paid last September and is on top of up to £900 of support that disabled people on low incomes will receive between April 2023 and April 2024. Although costs are rising for everyone, disabled people often face extra costs, such as care and mobility needs.
I am proud that our welfare system rightly provides a safety net for millions of vulnerable people, but there are those who seek to abuse it and so one of my priorities is to tackle benefit fraud.
New statistics show a 10% fall in fraud the past year and I am overseeing the recruitment of 1,400 new Counter Fraud agents to crack down further.
There’s much more to do but this is welcome progress towards our goal of saving the tax payer £9 billion by 2027/28 – money that can then be invested back into our vital public services and to help those who genuinely need extra support.
► More from Mel at www.melstridemp.com or follow him on Twitter @MelJStride