DEBBIE ABRAHAMS, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, has been appointed as Shadow Minister for Disabled People in the Work and Pensions shadow ministerial team.
Mrs Abrahams, who has been a member of the Work and Pensions Select Committee since June 2011, is known for holding the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to account with her robust questioning in the Commons and at select committee hearings.
She has repeatedly warned ministers that their Work Capability Assessments are not working fairly for disabled people and the Access to Work programme is performing woefully.
Other issues she has raised include the rollout of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), government cuts in disability support and the disability employment gap.
In February Mrs Abrahams also introduced a 10 Minute Rule Bill, Employment of People with Disabilities, to try and address this growing inequality.
She was also instrumental in the campaign to force the Government to release data on the people on Incapacity Benefit (IB) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) who have died.
She has also campaigned for an independent inquiry into sanctions used by DWP, successfully instigating a Work & Pensions Select Committee inquiry.
Reacting to the announcement of her new role Mrs Abrahams said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be working on such an important issue and one which I feel passionately about.
“Disabled people and their carers continue to face many barriers in our society, in accessing work and receiving appropriate support.
“Here in Oldham my Oldham Fairness Commission showed the disability employment gap stands at 34.7 per cent – higher than the UK average.
“Yet in the UK last year just 35,000 people with disabilities received assistance from the DWP’s flagship Access to Work programme.
“In my new role I will continue to hold the Government to account for all the public spending changes they have made since 2010 and the devastating effect those cuts are having on millions of disabled people, their families and carers.”
Owen Smith, the new Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said: “I am absolutely over the moon that Debbie has joined the Labour DWP team, as Shadow Minister for Disabled People.
“Debbie has a fantastic reputation in Parliament, standing up with passion on the issues that affect Oldham East and Saddleworth and people across the rest of the country.
“She has won great respect campaigning on issues like improved health services across the country and tackling late payments to small businesses.
“Debbie is also not afraid to roll up her sleeves and works incredibly hard, as she showed through her work on the Dementia Friendly Oldham campaign.
“I’ve no doubt that Debbie will provide as strong a voice for disabled people in Parliament as she already does for her constituents. We’re lucky to have her.”