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Stephen  Bevan

Wanted: Modern employment support for disabled people

Authors: Stephen Bevan Stephen Bevan

14 June 2011

 In May 2010, Liz Sayce OBE, the CEO of Radar was asked to carry out an independent review of the range of employment support measures available to disabled people in the UK and how it could be improved. In the international league of employment rates for disabled people the UK languishes in mid-table mediocrity and much more could be done to ensure that the labour market works better to support disabled people to get into work, to stay in work and to get on at work.

For the last five years The Work Foundation has been looking at the employment experiences of people with a range of long-term and chronic conditions. Our multi-country study of musculoskeletal disorders Fit for Work Europe, for example, has looked at conditions such as chronic low back pain and rheumatoid arthritis and it is very clear that if more could be done to improve job retention – helping people to stay in work – employment outcomes are often much better than among those who are seeking employment after a period out of the labour market. Similar principles apply across many chronic conditions such as inflammatory bowel conditions and mental illness. Our work has also highlighted that, in the current climate, it is tempting to argue that job quality is less important than having a job at all. Yet we know that Good Work is good for health and productivity and the final report of the Good Work Commission (being launched on 1 July) argues that everyone wants to do a job which, to some extent, helps them feel they are doing something worthwhile.

Amid last week’s fuss about the launch of the government’s Work Programme (a fuss ably contributed to by my colleague Dr Neil Lee!) the launch of the Sayce Review of employment support for disabled people on Thursday ( 9 June) was almost overshadowed. Yet, in examining in detail how this support could be improved, this Review could prove to be an important watershed. Even if you don’t read the whole report, I urge you to read the Foreword & Executive Summary.




Liz Sayce, among other things, recommends a doubling of the numbers of people able to take advantage of the government’s Access to Work scheme. In a report we will be publishing on Multiple Sclerosis next week, The Work Foundation will also endorse the benefits of Access to Work because it can often play a major role in supporting job retention for people who might normally drop out of work prematurely.


At a time when the focus of politicians and the media is on reducing the welfare bill, it is worth remembering that most people with a disability or with a long-term condition want to work. Yet, if we continue to attach such low priority to employment support schemes such as Access to Work, which really do make a difference, it is inevitable that the employment prospects for too many disabled people will remain mediocre. As Liz Sayce says in her report:


'When Government spends around 20 times as much on out-of-work benefits for disabled people as on specialist disability employment support (£7 billion compared with just £330 million) something is wrong: we need to invest more in a menu of disability employment support that individuals can control if they wish (Access to Work, peer support and mentoring, support to get and keep employment). This makes economic sense: for every £1 spent on Access to Work the Exchequer recoups £1.48, and the social return on the investment is even higher. This would (with other measures) help reduce some of the need for out-of-work benefits, which would make the whole change self-sustaining.' 


This is not an area where we need a whole lot of new evidence – we know what works. We should just get on and do it.

Comments in Chronological Order (Total 1 Comments)


11 Jul 2011 10:51AM

yes most people want to work the old New labour hype, I was one of the people asked by Labour to do the survey from the DWP handled it seem by a company in India who had no idea of the world.

I was asked to only say yes and no, are you disabled .... yes. Do you want to work. no..... Please why not, I said I thought you said yes or no, well your the first to say no, why not, because I cannot work, due to being in bed with tubes coming out of my body... ah yes but would you want to work if you could.

OK what happened to the yes and no.

But I'm classed as having a Lesion of the spinal cord with Paraplegia loss of bowel and bladder function, I also suffer from chronic pain never ending twenty four hours a day which means I am short tempered and boy do I mean short tempered.

Now then ten years ago the tubes were removed and I had an implanted morphine pump to have drug places into my body without me having any input, to help stop me over dosing.

But I decided to get back to work, me and my wheelchair, and my pain and my wetting my self and my messing my self, I was informed none of that mattered since i would be driven to work, driven home, and would have a carer.

So off I go down to my job center wheelchair wife and me, in I go and I was told to return next week with a CV, down I go with my CV suit and tie, in I go to be told my special adviser is sadly suffering depression can I come back next week, this has already cost me twenty five pounds in Taxi fee's. So the next week I phone sorry still ill. Three weeks go by she is still off, but come down next week we will sort something out, down I go to be told by the security chap that she still off, and they have left no instructions for me, so I ask to see the manager look of evil from the security and the manager comes out yes what can I do, I phoned up your office told me to come down to sort something out.

An hour later I get a piece of paper with an address, down I go to Remploys inter works, first think they ask have you go the chit, what chit, the chit which says we will get paid, you will need the chit, how do I get that, from the job center, back I go to be told come back next week, taxi fee's now reaching £60.

The following week I go down my special adviser is back, I go in and she says she has a hangover, this is no joking, so I get the chit which states remploy will get the £160 fee. So down to Remploy they take the chit sign me in and tell me to come back next week, my temper is now reaching boiling point, and I explode out comes the supervisor to tell me I'll be banned in the end they agree to discuss me joining Remploy, but of course the £160 has been paid.

A month later six month since going down I'm reaching the £100 on taxi and yet have not even discussed getting a job or what I can do.

Remploy phones me up at home to tell me they are leaving the area due to insufficient people attending, well thats not a shock I've been now coming for nine months.

Back to the job center to see my special adviser who is off sick again, but they have another one who will see me, great I wait and hour and then I get called in, give them my CV which they state would be easy for me to find work, and I said hold on when I did this I had two legs did not pee myself of mess my self climbing ladders would not be possible now, I worked in the building trade.

OK here we go, if you could do any job in the world what would you do, well I would work for NASA, OK I will look to see what NASA are offering, an hour later she said what is NASA.

I get told that I'm not taking this seriously, but of course what is a nineteen year old young women being employed as a disability adviser in the first place.

A year has gone by I'm now getting DLA and I have my own car with adaption to drive by hands which takes a wheelchair.

The government labour have decided the old way did not work this was the new way.

Down i go to wait for an hour in a room to see a benefits adviser who told me that getting me back to work was Priority, I would be given all the help I needed, could I come back next month, so we had gone now from weekly to monthly.

Month later I go down to be met by that same security man who had three job offers for me, Scafolder, window cleaner, and painter and decorator. From a wheelchair mind you. I just threw them into the bin.

I go down the following month to get the security officer handing me the same jobs again. After three months of the same thing I ask to see the special adviser, yes you got it she is off sick.

I get sent to the Shaw Trust, go down get told not many employers are employing disabled people but they would try their best, three weeks later I get told they have left the area, my job center told me to come back after the elections when they know what was going on, I have not seen anyone since the election.

fact no special help no assistance and people are ignoring us by sending us all over the place for Jobs which do not exist.