The new work and pensions secretary scrapped the disability and employment white paper prepared by his predecessor Iain Duncan Smith because he “didn’t like the look” of it, a Tory MP has told a parliamentary meeting.
The new work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb had previously said that he wanted to “take a step back” from previous government plans to publish a white paper that would have included “firm legislative proposals” on supporting disabled people into work.
But fellow Conservative MP Heidi Allen told the all-party parliamentary disability group that there had been “a little bit of cynicism” about why Crabb had decided to postpone the white paper when he took over from Duncan Smith in March.
Some MPs and campaigners had criticised the decision, claiming that it was “kicking the issue into the long grass” and complaining that ministers had previously “bought off their own rebels” with a promise to have firm proposals in place through the white paper by the summer.
That promise had been made after Tory backbench unease about plans to cut almost £30 a week from payments to new claimants placed in the work-related activity group of employment and support allowance.
But Allen said of Crabb’s white paper decision: “Honestly and truthfully, between these four walls, he didn’t like the look of the old one.”
She later told Disability News Service that this information had not come directly from Crabb, but that she had heard he was “unhappy with the white paper proposals as far as they had developed and wanted to start the process again, engage with disability groups and go back to a green paper”.
Crabb had earlier told the meeting – he left before Allen made her comments – that the issue of disability employment had received “nothing like the real high level attention it deserves within government” and that he had come in “with a fresh pair of eyes” to look at the manifesto pledge to halve the disability employment gap.
He said he had made the decision “not to rush ahead with the white paper” because he realised that there were many people who “want to be working, want to be doing something, want support… but are not getting that support at the moment”.
He also repeated his pledge that, following his decision to scrap further cuts to personal independence payment – announced in the wake of Duncan Smith’s resignation – he was not going to “dip into another part of the welfare budget” to fill that gap.
Tomlinson, who also addressed the meeting, claimed that disabled people would “tell us the best way to do it” through the green paper, and that those employers that were able to “adapt” would benefit from employing more disabled people.
He said: “We have to make sure businesses have the confidence that they are offering opportunities to disabled people based on ability and not disability.”
And he said the government needed to ensure that businesses were “well supported” and that “best practice is shared”.
But Tomlinson was heavily-criticised for his department’s failure to do more to help dyslexic job-seekers.
After he said DWP was “doing a lot more upskilling across the Jobcentre Plus network” on dyslexia, Margaret Malpas, chair of the British Dyslexia Association (BDA), said her charity had provided free training for DWP staff, and had not even had its expenses paid.
She said: “It’s ridiculous. I don’t know what we do to get noticed. We cannot get a hearing, we can’t get anybody to speak to us from DWP, or anywhere else.”
Tomlinson said that one of his most senior members of staff was dyslexic, and he agreed to meet with BDA, and said: “I understand the importance. You are preaching to the converted.
“There is some stuff being done. A lot more needs to be done.”