Sarah Newton, MP for Truro & Falmouth, has been promoted to Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions. She will oversee the department within the DWP for people with disabilities.
Mrs Newton previously had a junior position of Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Home Office.
In a large Whitehall department, the next in line after a the Secretary of State, who would sit in the Cabinet, is a Minister of State. They can be thought of as a deputy to the Secretary of State. Larger departments may have several – and they don’t come any larger than the DWP.
Some Ministers of State head their own departments and some attend Cabinet Meetings. They tend to be given their own responsibilities within a department, with the agreement of the Prime Minister. Sarah Newton has been appointed as Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work.
The Truro MP has shown an interest in this area previously and has hosted and attended several conferences and seminars in the last couple of years that focus on supported employment and getting more people with disabilities into work.
Despite the vulgarity of the ‘fit for work’ assesments, it always has to be remembered that 95% of people with a disability want to work although if you have a disability you are far more likely to be unemployed. As a whole, there is a 50% unemployment rate for people with disabilities compared to the current 4% in the entire population. The unemployment rate for people with learning disabilities is over 90%. The trick is finding the right job match for the right person and then supporting both worker and employer in the process.
There are several schemes nationally and locally for people with disabilities to access support in work, although DWP schemes like WorkChoice have been dogged with controversy since conception as the ‘payment by results’ model offered to providers encourages profit before people.
Sarah will now be required to answer relevant questions from the dispatch box in the Commons on behalf of the government. The promotion brings her rank along side George Eustice, MP for Camborne & Redruth, who is a Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. His responsibilities include Fisheries, food and farming, the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) and the bovine TB / badger cull policy.
All Ministers, as part of the collective responsibility of government, however junior, will be expected to back the Government in a Commons division or resign.