I fully recognise that Spinal Cord Injury is a devastating, long-term condition which can lead to complete or partial loss of movement and feeling, loss of sexual function and double incontinence. Access to specialised health services is essential to spinal cord-injured people’s rehabilitation, ongoing physical and mental health, and ability to live independently.
The impact of the condition on spinal cord injured people has been articulated powerfully in the Spinal Injuries Association’s report, “What Matters.”
I note that the report highlights a range of physical and mental health concerns affecting spinal cord injured people, as well as access to social care and employment support.
On employment, progress has been made in reducing the disability employment gap, but we must go further to ensure that people with disabilities – such as spinal cord injury - can access employment opportunities.
In July 2021, the Government published the Health and Disability Green Paper, which included a number of proposals to improve employment support for people with disabilities and improving the design of the benefits system.
The Green Paper considered how to improve the current services provided by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) so that they are better and easier to use, explored how extra support can help people navigate the system, and considered what can be done to better support disabled people into employment.
I welcome the wide range of measures discussed in the Green Paper as part of this three-pronged focus, for example exploring how to improve the information on GOV.UK in order to help people access the relevant benefits online. I understand that a White Paper is expected and I will follow developments closely.
I would also like to thank the APPG on Spinal Cord Injury and the Spinal Injuries Association on the tireless work they undertake raising these issues which can have such a huge impact on individuals and their families. I understand that it is very important that people with a spinal cord injury have access to the specialist care and treatment they require.
Finally, I will try my best to attend the APPG on Spinal Cord Injury on Wednesday 22 March, Parliamentary business permitting.