A young man working at a supermarket checkout

Halving the disability employment gap – a plan for the future

Ahead of Conservative Party Conference this week, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Damian Green announced the Government is to stop Work Capability Reassessments for people with long term conditions.

This will be welcome news for some disabled people and it’s a step in the right direction that the Assessment needs reforming. However, we believe this needs to be part of a wider package of improvement from the Government if it is going to achieve the bold ambition of halving the disability employment gap by 2020.

The Government has announced it will be publishing a green paper shortly on how it will enable more disabled people and those with long term conditions to get and stay in work.

Our hopes for the Government’s green paper

We think this must present a coherent and achievable plan, which needs to work across the different areas of work, and address the barriers and disadvantages disabled people face getting in and staying work.

Ahead of Damian Green’s speech to the Conservative Conference today, we’ve set out five areas we believe the green paper should cover if we’re to halve the disability employment gap by 2020, enabled those who can work find a job that suits them and, ensure that when disabled people are in work they are able to thrive:

  • Reporting progress towards halving the disability employment gap
  • Best practice for employer
  • Reforming the Work Capability Assessment
  • Specialist employment support
  • Improving and innovating support for working disabled people

We believe that a detailed reporting system, breaking down employment rates by area and impairment will help make sure that barriers to employment are identified. This will also support the Government to understand what is working.

We hope that the green paper also looks the important role businesses play and encourage employers to create modern flexible workplaces where all staff are supported to achieve their potential. 85 per cent of disabled people do not think employers’ attitudes have changed over the last four years.

Whilst some employers are leading the way on disability employment, there are over 5.4m businesses in the UK who we need to spur to take action, and need the support to do it.

Supporting disabled people into work

We also believe the Government should go further on the Work Capability Assessment and start a conversation with disabled people on the wholesale reform of the fitness-for-work test.

Disabled people are pushing hard to get jobs, but still face many barriers to find work and thrive in employment which aren’t included. The test should be the first step to identifying those barriers so the right support can be put in place to help people get back to work.

Access to specialist employment should also be widened and offered on a flexible and voluntary basis. Work Choice, a specialist support programme for disabled people which is voluntary, has delivered much better results for disabled people than the mandatory Work Programme.

Finally, we believe there needs to be reform to in-work support. Fluctuations in a physical or mental health condition can mean extended periods of time away or on sick leave, and too often this leads to people having to stop working completely. The green paper should set out innovative and improved support for working disabled people and, vital in work support schemes such as Access to Work should be promoted more widely.

Over the coming months Scope will be speaking to Government and parliamentarians of all parties about the changes we think are needed to halve the employment gap, improve employer attitudes and make sure disabled people have the same employment opportunities are everyone else.

Read the rest of our blogs on halving the disability employment gap and read our response to Damian Green’s speech.