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Tom Pollard
Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer, Mind
Tom Pollard

Rethinking employment support for disabled people

Authors: Tom Pollard Tom Pollard, Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer, Mind

23 July 2013

Many have commented on how this financial downturn has not resulted in the kind of high rates of unemployment of previous recessions. However, for people with disabilities and long term conditions the stagnant jobs market has meant that little progress has been made in recent years to address the shocking unemployment rate of just over 50 per cent.

Despite the impression you may get from some media coverage, this is not down to people not wanting or trying to work - there is strong evidence that most disabled people would ultimately like to be in paid employment.

Although much of the government rhetoric on welfare and benefits focuses on the responsibility of the individual, it does recognise that disabled people face additional barriers to working - around £320m a year is spent on specialist disability employment support. However, it is far from clear that this money is being well spent as national schemes such as the Work Programme show disappointing results for disabled people.

In this context a number of major charities representing disabled people have come together to recommend a rethink of disability employment support. The new report, 'Work in Progress', from Action on Hearing Loss, Mencap, Mind, RNIB and Scope, sets out what the current problems are and what could be done to improve this support. Key recommendations include:

  • Accurately assessing people's needs rather than just a narrow definition of 'capability', as is currently used in the Work Capability Assessment that plays a key role in deciding what support people receive
  • Bringing together different sources of support such as health, education, social care and benefits advice to ensure that these services complement each other in supporting the individual towards employment
  • Focusing on finding work for people that matches their skills, experience and aspirations, so that their employment is rewarding and sustainable
  • Actively engaging with employers to build their confidence in employing disabled people and improve the support they offer
  • Emphasising voluntary participation in employment support rather than relying on the threat of sanctions
  •      
    The report is based on our organisations' extensive experience of supporting and listening to the people we represent. As the government thinks about the future of specialist disability employment support through the development of their Disability Employment Strategy, we hope that they put these recommendations at the heart of a new approach. Anything but a significant rethink of this support is unlikely to make any sort of dent in the high unemployment rate of disabled people. 
     
     

 

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