Today the Government set out its plan to support more disabled people to enter and stay in work, with a laudable ambition of getting a million more disabled people into work over the next ten years. The Prime Minister said she is “committed to tackling the injustices facing disabled people who want to work, so that everyone can go as far as their talents will take them.”
We’ve taken a closer look at the Government’s plan published today and what it could mean for disabled people.
At Scope, we know that there are one million disabled people who can and want to work. Yet too many face barriers to entering, staying and progressing in work.
This is a huge waste of disabled people’s talent and potential, which is why we’ve been campaigning over the last four years to convince the Government to address the challenges faced by disabled job-seekers and employees.
The Government today has announced a series of measures to increase disability employment and change the workplace for disabled people. These include trials that will look at ways to support disabled people to move into employment and proposals to support disabled people to stay in work. There is also a greater focus on the role of employers in supporting disabled people in the workplace.
Last year we gathered many of your views and experiences of work and the workplace. It’s positive to see the Government’s ambition, but it’s vital this plan leads to swift and meaningful action if they are to meet their pledge to get one million more disabled people into employment over the next ten years.
Work Capability Assessment
The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is the gateway to a higher rate of benefit for disabled people whilst out of work. We’ve long been calling for the Government to replace the WCA with a new assessment which more accurately recognises the barriers disabled people face to entering and staying in work.
The Government has said it will be exploring ways to improve disabled people’s experiences of the assessment process and provide more personalised support.
Whilst this is a step in the right direction, this does not go far enough. We need to see a complete overhaul of the assessment that accurately identifies the back-to-work support disabled people need. It is important that any assessment for financial support is separate from any conversations about support to move into work.
The Government have set out a series of proposals for testing new ways of offering support to disabled people to take up employment.
This includes exploring the idea of personal budgets for employment support and testing out an offer of voluntary employment support for people in the support group of Employment and Support Allowance.
We think these ideas have the potential to help disabled people get the tailored support they need to get into work. However, it’s vital that any engagement with employment support is voluntary and has no impact on the financial support an individual receives.
Employers Driving Change
The Government has also announced a range of measures to improve the workplace and highlight the role employers play in tackling disability unemployment. This includes a focus on getting large employers to voluntary publish information on their disabled employees, as well as a greater focus on providing employers with information and advice
We think this is positive news. Our research shows that 48 per cent of disabled people have worried about sharing information about their impairment or condition with an employer, demonstrating that we need to do more to create inclusive workplaces for disabled people.
This change will help to give employers a better sense of areas where they’re doing well at recruiting and retraining disabled staff, and areas they need to look at where disabled people are underrepresented.
Access to Work
There are also a range of measures to improve the Access to Work scheme. This provides essential resources and support that disabled people need to do their jobs.
It can make a huge difference to working disabled people, but we know that disabled people can sometimes face issues with the scheme, such as delays in getting support, or loss of their package of support if they change role within the same organisation.
This can make it harder for disabled people to stay in their jobs. We know that for every 100 disabled people moving into work, 114 leave, meaning its critical disabled people have the right support once in employment.
The Government has proposed changes to improve the delivery of the scheme, which include investing in its Mental Health Support Service and making it easier for disabled people to take their awards with them when they change jobs. However, it is crucial the Government invests in Access to Work so that a greater number of disabled people can benefit from the scheme to help them stay in work.
Statutory Sick Pay
There is also a commitment to consult on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). This is money paid by an employer to their employee while they are off sick, either instead of, or after, occupational sick pay.
The Government’s proposal would help to increase disabled people’s income during a phased return to work after a period of sickness absence. However, we want to see the Government go further and reform SSP so that disabled people have greater flexibility in managing fluctuations in their condition whilst at work.
Today’s publication includes a range of measures that could help tackle the disability employment gap and improve the workplace for disabled people. It’s critical that disabled people’s experiences are at the heart of any changes.
The Government now needs to build on this plan and ensure that it quickly leads to real change for disabled people.
Scope will be continuing to campaign on disability employment so that more disabled people can enter, stay and progress in work.
As part of this, Scope has launched its Work With Me campaign with Virgin Media to get government, employers and the public to tackle the issues faced by disabled job-seekers and employees.