NORTH West Hampshire MP Kit Malthouse sat in the hot seat answering questions on disability-related issues on Friday last week.

In an outing for the newly-appointed minister at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), he was quizzed at a Test Valley Disability Forum (TVDF) held at Andover Guildhall.

Questions put to the minister covered Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessments, access to the work and training, and his decision in 2016 to vote in favour to cut Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) by £30 a week.

Mr Malthouse said: “In the work-related group of people who are capable of work, only one per cent were moving into work so the government wanted to try a different approach of bringing down ESA to match Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA).

“That extra money could go into job support training, adaptation to work and that seemed to me as a laudable aim when I know disabled people came to me who wanted a job but were unable to get into a job.

“It was worth a new approach for new claimants as the current system wasn’t working for 99 per cent of people. I thought it was the right thing to try and that is why I voted for it.”

The minister also expressed a positive outlook on the introduction of Universal Credit being rolled out in Test Valley this year which he described as the “answer” to many of the current issues with the benefits system.

Mr Malthouse spoke about his ambition to get as many disabled people in to work as possible and that he was hosting a Disability Confident event at Enham Trust in March to encourage employers to take on more disabled employees.

TVDF organiser and Test Valley Borough councillor Karen Hamilton said: “As a service user, I felt the meeting went very well, with Kit Malthouse responding to a cross sector of questions. It was a great opportunity for the vulnerable sector to have this Q&A session. In my councillor role, I will be going forward doing a Test Valley disability review, covering all issues people face within Test Valley.”

The Disability Forum is open to anyone with disabilities, with the next meeting at Andover and District Mencap at 1pm on 8 February. To find out more visit, Test Valley Disabilities Forum’s Facebook group.