Work and pensions ministers have received a humiliating dressing-down from the Commons speaker after their “unacceptable” failure to provide an accessible version of vital new universal credit papers to a disabled shadow minister.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had failed to provide the long-awaited managed migration draft regulations (see separate story) in an accessible format to Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people.
Instead she was told she would have to wait four days to receive them.
De Cordova was not available to discuss her treatment this week, but she said on Twitter that it was “unacceptable” that she had been forced to wait to see the “vital” documents.
MPs heard that she had had to make a series of phone calls to DWP civil servants to arrange for the document to be provided in a large-print format.
Even then, DWP said it would only be able to provide the accessible version by tomorrow (Friday), four days after the draft regulations were published, although – following the case being highlighted – she eventually received them within a couple of days of the concerns being raised in the Commons.
De Cordova’s Labour colleague, Valerie Vaz, the shadow leader of the Commons, raised concerns about DWP’s failure on Tuesday.
Vaz told MPs that de Cordova had been “urgently seeking an accessible copy of the managed migration regulations”.
She said: “After numerous calls to the department she’s finally been promised a copy on Friday.”
Vaz said this was “unacceptable” and that an accessible version should have been made available “immediately from the moment of publication”.
She said: “It is vital that we are representative of society as a whole, which means that such important government publications should be provided in an accessible form at publication and not take the best part of a working week to be provided.”
The speaker, John Bercow, told MPs: “The resources available to ministers are very considerable and it is simply not acceptable that a member of parliament with a known additional need should not have that need as near as possible immediately satisfied.
“This was an entirely predictable request and I hope that it will be not necessary for this matter to be aired again and I appreciate ministers nodding from a sedentary position on the front bench.”
DWP yesterday (Wednesday) refused to answer a series of questions about its failure, including whether Sarah Newton, the minister for disabled people, would apologise to de Cordova, and what steps Newton was taking to ensure such a problem did not happen again.
Instead of answering the questions, a DWP spokeswoman produced an 11-word statement, saying: “An accessible copy has been made available to Ms de Cordova.”
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com