Like most people that care deeply about supporting disabled people in this country, I was dismayed hear Lord Freud's comments about disabled people working for less than the minimum wage. I accept that he has since apologised, but what worries me is that as the minister responsible for welfare reform it still does not appear, to me anyway, that many of those in charge of welfare reform really understand the needs of disabled people or indeed the welfare system that is there to support disabled people. WHAT HE SHOULD HAVE SAID... “Disabled people are equal in society. Work they undertake should always be meaningful and should merit decent pay the same as anyone in this country.” “The minimum wage is there to ensure ALL workers are paid fairly and not taken advantage of by employers. Even so, there is much to be done. We need to encourage employers to pay more, especially if large profits are being made. We support the idea of the living wage and want to ensure this becomes a reality to help eradicate in work-poverty for everyone, including disabled people.” “We have a system for supporting disabled people into work, but it is broken. We spend millions of pounds every year assessing disabled people as incapable of work for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), before going to great lengths to tell disabled people via the media they should be working or preparing for work.” “Support for disabled people to try out work already exists. Disabled people receiving Employment & Support Allowance can volunteer for as many hours as they like and this is often a great way to try work out. Permitted work rules also exist, where disabled people can try out paid work for under-16 hours per week without it affecting their benefits. We would encourage any disabled person on ESA to find out more about these schemes.” “There is also already support to help disabled people into work called access to work. This is a fund that can help disabled people get the help they need to work and be successful in work.” “We also already have a system of disability benefits including the Personal Independence Payment. These are there to support disabled people for their care and mobility needs regardless of working ability.” “One thing I have learnt in my time as welfare reform minister is that there are many disabled people and those with long term illnesses that are unable to work. This is a fact of life. We should always offer our unflinching support to this group. We want to ensure they are looked after financially. That they get access to the care they need. That they are using the services that are there to support them. Even here, more needs to be done.” Lord Freud, you should know this welfare system inside out by now. You should know how best to support disabled people, what help is already available and what improvements need to be made. The fight for equality for disabled people in the UK is at a critical point in history. The social model of disability is still just a dream for many disabled people. Government rhetoric on benefit reforms and disability benefits are holding disability equality back. You should not have said what you said. But it is what you didn’t say that is the biggest worry of all. Lee Healey IncomeMAX Managing Director