• Polly Lord

Lord Freud Comments On Disability

At a fringe meeting of the Conservative party conference held last month, Lord Freud was recorded as saying;

“You make a really good point about the disabled … There is a group – and I know exactly who you mean – where actually, as you say, they’re not worth the full wage and actually I’m going to go and think about that particular issue, whether there is something we can do nationally, and without distorting the whole thing, which actually if someone wants to work for £2 an hour, and it’s working, can we actually …”

His comments came in response to a colleague with a seriously disabled daughter who had suggested that people with mental health problems may be unable to work as employers are unwilling to pay them the statutory minimum wage.

The key word in his comments appears to be “worth”. Labour have jumped on this and called for Lord Freud to be sacked from his position as Welfare minister. A vote of no confidence is expected to take place next week to discuss Lord Freud’s position.

The comments, as he now accepts, have come across offensive. It is a key tenet of discrimination law that everyone is treated equally, irrespective of characteristics such as disability. However, Lord Freud’s underlying point is one that merits further discussion. Some disabled people, particularly those with mental health problems, do suffer from finding employment due to the rigidity required of employment law. While everyone should be paid equally for equal work, if there were ways of loosening restrictions to allow employers, and employees, flexibility there is potential for greatly enhancing access to employment for some disabled people.

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