EXPERTS have condemned the Conservatives after they quietly scrapped the role of minister for disabled people, saying that “right now, it doesn’t appear that the UK Government cares”.

As The National reported previously, Rishi Sunak axed the position in a mini-reshuffle – forced by the resignation of former immigration minister Robert Jenrick – on December 7.

One week on, it is now “the longest gap without a minister for disabled people in the last 30 years”, disability charity Scope’s James Taylor told The National.

Taylor, Scope’s director of strategy, went on: “What kind of message does that send to Britain’s 16 million disabled people? Does the Prime Minister think it’s acceptable to keep this post vacant?”

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The minister for disabled persons role was held by Tom Pursglove since Sunak took power. However, Pursglove was moved to work in the Home Office as the minister for legal migration amid an increasing UK Government focus on driving down net immigration.

Former solicitor general Michael Tomlinson was also moved over to the Home Office alongside Pursglove (below), but he was instantly replaced as solicitor general by Robert Courts.

On December 14, Downing Street said there would not be a replacement and the brief would be taken by an existing minister. But later the same day, the Tories U-turned and announced that Mims Davies would become the next Minister for Disabled People.

The National: Tom Pursglove MP at Derwentside IRC Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Bethany Bale, a policy officer from Disability Rights UK, said: "As pressures are rising for disabled people over winter to pay for heating and food, the Government has left us without a minister for disabled people.

“It's absolutely unacceptable that we've gone over one working week without anyone in this post, and the lack of communication and action from the Government makes clear that our needs are not a policy priority.

“It's essential that a disability minister is re-appointed immediately, and that the new minister works with disabled people and groups to accurately represent the needs of our community."

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Lyn Pornaro, the chief executive officer of Disability Equality Scotland, said it was the second time the UK Government had disadvantaged disabled people “in a matter of a few short weeks”.

“During the autumn statement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Jeremy Hunt, below) indicated that they were a ‘compassionate government’. However disabled people are being severely challenged to agree with this perception.

“The lack of a replacement for the minister for disabled people just builds on the recent review by the UK Government around the Workplace Capability Assessment and the announcement that disabled people will be forced to do their ‘duty’ of gaining employment or have support benefits removed (after 18 months).”

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Pornaro went on: “Disabled people have been discriminated against by the UK Government for too long, and with their focus now being on migration – against some of the world’s most vulnerable and traumatised individuals – we are wondering where is the UK Government’s duty to all disabled people in the UK?

“Do disabled people deserve some compassion and who – specifically – in the government is fighting to hear our voices and then share them? Right now, it doesn’t appear that the UK Government cares.”

Pornaro said a recent survey of Disability Equality Scotland members found that more than half (51%) had been forced to make a choice between using their heating and using their independent living equipment.

A massive 97% of people said the Government should provide a specific cost of living payment to help people charge or use this independent living equipment.

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Scope’s Taylor commented: “Life costs more if you are disabled. We are in the middle of a cost of living crisis. There hasn’t been a cost of living payment for disabled people this winter, and negative welfare rhetoric has ramped up this year.

“We need this position to be a champion of disabled people and disability, and make sure policy doesn’t leave disabled people behind and disadvantaged.”

The Department for Work and Pensions declined to comment but suggested that any ministerial appointment would be announced in the usual way.

The Mirror reported that Downing Street had confirmed the minister for disabled persons role had been scrapped, and that an “existing minister [will be] taking on the brief”.