Tag Archives: policy

“There is still lots of stigma around mental health”

Today Scope has published Let’s talk, research on having conversations about disability at work. The research found that 48 per cent of disabled people have worried about talking about their impairment or condition with an employer.

Here, Gladys, who took part in the research and whose name has been changed to protect her identity,  talks about her experiences of employment. She is based in London and works in a school.

I was previously an Aid Worker with various charities for around 15 years. The work was sometimes arduous and required stamina as well as rigorous analysis. We worked very long hours in often difficult conditions. I was also involved in training other people from around the world. When I noticed that my memory was going and I was struggling with analytical thinking, I tried to continue as best I could including taking on ‘distance’ work based at home. Eventually even that became difficult and I didn’t know what to do. I was also in a lot of pain. But because the symptoms of my condition develop so slowly, it took nearly seven years to get diagnosed.

A few years after treatment had started I needed to get back to work as my benefits had been stopped after the first year, but I knew I couldn’t work full time as I had limited energy and so many medical appointments. I had been supported by the Job Centre, but they thought I was over-qualified for the stuff I was applying for. It was incredibly painful, because basically I was negating my career, and I had to ‘dumb down’ my CV. The fact that there was a break of a few years in my work experience didn’t help either. Due to my reduced energy levels, I tried to find work within a couple of miles of home so that the journey to work didn’t tire me out.

It was hard to get beyond the first interview

In one interview, with a call centre, I explained that I wouldn’t be off sick all the time; and that for example if I wasn’t in on a Tuesday, I would come in on another day to make up the hours. I thought this demonstrated my willingness to work. But they said, ‘Oh no, I would need you at this particular slot, because that is when the chair is available, we can’t be flexible’. A music school director rang me and said they had really liked me, and thought I was good, but they felt nervous about my condition and hospital appointments. I just wasn’t getting anywhere.

I wasn’t getting in through the normal channels and then I was advised by someone in the Job Centre that it wasn’t necessary to disclose, which proved to be valuable advice.  That’s how I got this job at a local Primary School. Whether the Headmistress assumed I’d taken a break for family reasons, I don’t know.  My qualifications were at the bottom of my CV and she reminded me that the job I was applying for was basically cleaning tables at lunchtime. But she didn’t probe further. She said that her main priority was that I would be reliable and turn up to work. I was relieved that I didn’t have to justify myself and I promised her that I would be reliable.

I am still at that school, working just four hours a day, four days a week.

I have never disclosed my disability

A couple of years ago I tried to increase the number of hours I worked and my grade but it was too exhausting and I had to stop after a year. During a chat with a teacher an early experience of teaching English as a Foreign Language slipped out and she identified a vacancy as a part time Learning Support Assistant. Although I preferred this work, I struggled to manage the 25 hours a week and I reverted to my former job, they found someone who could work full-time.

My former line manager was very friendly, and I tried to tell them I simply cannot work full-time, if I’m going to function in this environment.

I have never disclosed, but they know there’s a reason. I tried to say something once but decided against it because I was not sure how that might affect the dynamic in the office. I read that if you don’t need adjustments to be made to the workplace, then you don’t need to tell your employer. I don’t know if that is correct but if I don’t need to tell them, then I won’t. I am not yet psychologically strong enough to be surrounded by people who ‘mother me’.

Because I haven’t disclosed my impairment, I’m not sure what my rights at work are. I haven’t disclosed, because I wouldn’t have got this job if I had. It’s as stark as that.

A graphic showing statistics from Scope research. It reads "48 percent of disabled people have worried about sharing information about their impairment or condition with an employer"
48 percent of disabled people have worried about sharing information about their impairment or condition with an employer

People assume you are okay when maybe you are not

There’s still lots of stigma over mental health, I overhear negative comments from other colleagues. ‘So and so seems to be depressed – they just need to pull themselves together’. ‘So and so shouldn’t be doing this job if she feels that thing.’ I’ve heard that a lot. A couple of people know that I’m on anti-depressants but I usually keep quiet about it.

There was one colleague who started crying a lot. I went to comfort her and suggested that she speak to her doctor. She said that her doctor wanted to put her on anti-depressants and she was very worried about that. I told her that I’m on them. It seemed to help her to know that there was somebody else in her shoes.

It is important that disabled people are able to make informed decisions about if, when and how they talk about disability at work.

Based on the experiences of the people we spoke to, we’ve outlined ideas in our report for disabled people to consider when sharing information about their impairment or condition. 

Read more about our findings and recommendations and show your support on social media using #EverydayEquality.

Let’s talk: New research into disabled people’s experiences of talking about disability at work

Today Scope has published new research which looks at disabled people’s experiences of talking about disability at work.

We carried out a series of interviews with disabled people who are working. Some of those who took part had talked to their employer and colleagues about their impairment or condition, some hadn’t spoken about disability at work at all and others had shared some information with some people at work.

Below is a summary of our findings and our recommendations to employers and government to improve conversations about disability at work

Why is this important?

For some disabled people, talking about disability at work means they can start conversations about their support needs and how these may change over time. This can often be challenging for disabled people – two fifths of respondents in our research who asked for adjustments at work have felt uncomfortable doing this.

A graphic which shows a stat from Scope research. It reads "Two fifths of respondents who asked for adjustments at work have felt uncomfortable doing this"
Two fifths of respondents who asked for adjustments at work have felt uncomfortable doing this

In other cases, conversations between disabled colleagues can help create an environment where more people feel comfortable sharing information about their own impairment or condition at work.

Sharing information also allows employers to gather information about the experiences of disabled staff and helps them to develop a picture of how effectively they are recruiting, retaining and developing a diverse workforce.

By establishing an environment where disabled staff feel able to start conversations about disability, employers will be better placed to support their staff to reach their potential.

It’s important to recognise that some disabled people will have more choice over if, when and with whom they share information than others. However, this research has found that even among people who have a visible impairment, conversations about this and any support needs they have can have a significant impact on experiences at work.

Barriers to talking about disability

As many as 48 per cent of disabled people worry about sharing information about their impairment or condition with their employer. Some people who took part in the research had worried that telling their employer they are disabled may put their job opportunities at risk.

A graphic showing statistics from Scope research. It reads "48 percent of disabled people have worried about sharing information about their impairment or condition with an employer"
48 percent of disabled people have worried about sharing information about their impairment or condition with an employer

Others were concerned about how their manager or colleagues would react, and wanted to avoid negative comments, personal questions or pity.

Read more about Gladys’ experiences of talking about disability at work.

What leads to sharing information?

Many disabled people who took part in the project preferred to have conversations about disability on their own terms than responding to questions.

This included choosing who to tell, what information they shared  and when they shared it.

Positive and negative experiences of sharing information

Some disabled people had negative experiences when they talked about their impairment or condition at work.

These included feeling they hadn’t been listened to, or feeling as though they were being singled out as a result of the information they had shared.

For others, talking about disability had been more positive, and had led to them getting support to carry out their role.

For many disabled people who took part in the project, a positive aspect of talking about disability was that it opened up new conversations with disabled colleagues.

What needs to change?

We want to see employers review the way they gather information about their disabled staff. It is vital they take steps to make sure line managers know how to respond and offer support when staff start conversations about disability.

We’re also calling on the Government to improve the support available to working disabled people as well as employers. We want to see the role of the Equality and Human Rights Commission strengthened so that employers who discriminate can be held to account.

It is important that disabled people are able to make informed decisions about if, when and how they talk disability at work. Based on the experiences of the people we spoke to, we’ve outlined ideas in our report for disabled people to consider when sharing information about their impairment or condition. 

Read more about our findings and recommendations and show your support on social media using #EverydayEquality

Budget 2017 – Will it deliver for disabled people?

The Budget outlines the Government’s spending priorities for the year. How can the chancellor Philip Hammond make his first budget work for disabled people? 

Ahead of the Budget next Wednesday (8 March) we’ve been responding the Government’s announcement that they intend to tighten up access to Personal Independence Payments (PIP) following two court rulings which widened access. We are really concerned that this could lead to disabled claimants missing out on the financial support they rely on to live independently.

We have spoken to MPs and Ministers about this change. It has also been debated in Parliament and raised in Prime Minister’s Questions. Disabled people spend around £550 a month on costs related to their disability and on average are less financially resilient than non-disabled people.

That’s why PIP, which helps disabled people meet some of these extra costs, is so important.

We want the Government to clarify the numbers of people who won’t be eligible for PIP following their decision and we have made them aware of our concerns. The PIP assessment must focus on the extra costs people face not their impairment.

In the Budget the Government should provide more reassurance that the financial support disabled people receive now or in the future will not be negatively affected.

We also want them to take action to drive down the extra costs disabled people face, properly fund social care and provide support for disabled people both in and out of work. We responded to the Government’s consultation on employment and submitted these points to the Treasury.

The extra costs disabled people face

As well has helping disabled people to meet the extra costs they face by protecting PIP, it is also important the Government take action to drive them down. We’ve asked the Government to develop a cross-Government strategy to tackle extra costs. We also want them to draw up a definition of a vulnerable consumer – with a particular focus on the energy industry – to ensure consistency in the support provided for disabled energy consumers.

Social care

The funding crisis in social care has remained high on the political agenda this year. Along with a number of MPs, local councils and other charities we have been calling on the Government to provide the social care system with the funding it so urgently needs.

400,000 working age disabled people rely on social care support for everyday tasks such as cooking and washing. It’s vital that everyone who needs it is able to access good quality social care that supports them to live independently. When we asked disabled social care users about their experiences of care, over half told us their care never supports their independence.

The Government has already committed to a review of social care. This is welcome but they must consult with and listen to disabled social care users as part of that review, something we have asked them to do.

It has been widely reported the Budget will include some money for social care and we hope will be used to improve care for disabled people. However, a short-term injection of cash won’t be enough. We need to see the Chancellor set out a sustainable long-term plan for funding social care as demand continues to grow.

Employment

Last year the Government launched a consultation on the support disabled people receive to find, stay and progress in work. That consultation closed last month and we want the Government to use the Budget as an opportunity to set out what they’ll be doing next. We want to see a package of real reforms set out in a White Paper as soon as possible.

Read more about what we said to Government on the specific changes.

We also want to see the Government halt a proposed financial reduction to people who receive Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

From 1 April this year new claimants will receive £30 a week less than current claimants. We don’t think that will help disabled people to find jobs, it will just make life harder.

Scope has been campaigning against this reduction since it was initially proposed and this is the Governments last chance to act.

On the day we’ll be tweeting as the Budget takes place and sharing our response to key announcements on the website. 

Autumn Statement 2016: A missed opportunity to invest in social care

During his first Autumn Statement as Chancellor, Phillip Hammond spoke about creating an economy that works for everyone and helping ordinary families.

However, we heard little from the Chancellor today that will help support the UK’s 12.9 million disabled people.

Social care

Despite calls from across the sector and from his own MPs the Chancellor didn’t take the opportunity to invest in the social care system.

Social care is the support disabled people rely on to get up, get dressed, get out, and lead independent lives. However, after years of underfunding the system is under extreme pressure and needs urgent investment.

Without long-term and sustainable funding for the social care system more disabled people are at risk of slipping into crisis without access to the support they need. Nearly a third of young disabled people told us they already aren’t getting the support they need to live independent lives. The Chancellor wants everyone to be able to share in economic growth but without adequate social care many disabled people will be unable to work and contribute to their communities in the way they choose.

Employment

The Chancellor said he was privileged to report on an economy where unemployment is at an 11 year low, however the disability employment gap has remained at around 30 per cent for a decade.

Scope analysis also shows that disabled people are almost three times as likely to fall out of work as non-disabled people. If the Government are going to achieve their manifesto commitment of halving the disability employment gap they need to do much more.

Disabled people need a broad package of support to find and stay in work. This includes challenging negative attitudes, a greater focus on flexible working practices and investment in the Access to Work Scheme.

Despite last week’s vote in the House of Commons calling on the Government to pause changes to Employment Support Allowance for those in the Work Related Activity Group, the Chancellor did not reverse this decision today. Half a million disabled people rely on Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and are already struggling to make ends meet. Reducing their financial support won’t help more disabled people into work and we will continue to campaign against this decision.

Responding to pressure from MPs and charities, the Chancellor did announce changes to the Universal Credit “taper rate”.

This change to the rate at which someone loses their benefit as they increase their hours in work will be a slight improvement for some disabled people.

Extra costs

The Government today announced  further investment in digital infrastructure, including a £1 billion investment in broadband. For disabled people to benefit from the investment the Government must work to close the digital divide. 25 per cent of disabled adults have never used the internet compared to six per cent of non-disabled adults. We need to see targeted investment in digital skills training for disabled people and action to improve web accessibility.

The Chancellor said he wants to make sure the retail energy market is functioning fairly for all consumers. Life costs £550 a month more for disabled people, due to costs such as a higher fuel bills. It is vital that both the Government and energy companies think about how they can support disabled people with their energy costs more effectively and set out details for how they plan to do this.

The extra costs faced by disabled people mean many are just about managing and are the people Theresa May promised to help in her first speech as Prime Minister.

The Government must do more to include the UK’s 12.9 million disabled people in their vision of a country which works for everyone.   

What’s behind the disability employment gap?

This morning, the Government has published the latest data on disabled people in and out of work. So what does it tell us?

We know disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people.

We have been calling on the Government to deliver on its commitment to halve the disability employment gap, and to deliver a strategy that tackles the barriers disabled people face in and out of work.

New statistics out today

Data from the labour force survey published this morning shows that around 80 per cent of non-disabled people are in work, compared with 48 per cent of disabled people.

The difference between the two rates is often called the disability employment gap. Today’s results show the gap is 32 percentage points.

You can read our reaction to the labour stats on our website.

Barriers to work

Although the overall employment rate is higher than ever, the disability employment gap has barely shifted over the last ten years.

We know work isn’t right for everyone, and believe everyone’s contribution to society should be valued whether they work or not. Many disabled people tell us they do want to work, but face barriers in society, both moving in to work and in keeping their jobs.

These include things like buildings and transport not being accessible and working hours not being flexible.

Employers

Text reads: 85 per cent of disabled people feel employer attitudes have not improved since 2012

Behind many of these barriers is attitudes employers hold towards disabled people. We know 85 per cent of disabled people feel employer attitudes haven’t improved since 2012.

While employers are legally required to try to make adjustments to support disabled employees, very few employers understand how this requirement  affects them

Falling out of work

Digging a little deeper in to the labour force survey, we’ve also found that disabled people are nearly three times more likely to leave work than non-disabled people.

We’ve also found that people who acquire an impairment as adults are 4 times more likely to fall out of work than non-disabled people This shows how important it is that employers offer support and make adjustments for their employees.

The Government recently published Improving Lives , a consultation on plans to change support for disabled people in and out of work. At Scope, we want to see the Government listen to disabled people’s views and to drive a shift change in employer attitudes and workplace practices in the UK.

Tell us about your experiences

Have you become disabled since you started working?  We’d love to hear about your experiences. Contact: stories@scope.org.uk for more information.

“I want to make the extraordinary seem ordinary” – disability and employment

At a fringe event at the recent Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, organised by Scope and the Fabian Society, senior Labour Party parliamentarians, policy experts and disabled people shared their experiences of employment. The group considered how to ensure disabled people played a key role in the changing world of work.

The panel consisted of Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Debbie Abrahams MP, Neil Coyle MP, General Secretary of the Fabian Society Andy Harrop, Scope’s Head of Policy, Research and Public Affairs Anna Bird and Lauren Pitt.

In this blog Lauren talks about her experiences of employment and her thoughts following the panel event.

I lost my sight at the age of 13. When I graduated from university in 2015, I began what turned out to be a long and difficult job hunt. I applied for over 250 jobs but despite being qualified, I only got interviews about 5% of the time. The interviews were generally very negative about my disability. They’d ask “How are you going to be able to do this job?” and I would think “Well I can, otherwise I wouldn’t have applied” but it’s difficult if you’re not being given the chance.

“In phone interviews, when I mentioned that I was disabled their attitudes changed. Potential employers were suddenly less interested in what I had to say.” – Lauren, in her opening speech

I eventually got offered a job and I’m really enjoying it.  When Scope invited me to speak at this event, I immediately said yes. For me, none of the process of getting into work was easy. I came because I wanted to make that process easier for other people. I’m keen to change attitudes towards disability in the workplace and by sharing my story, I want to help disabled people have the confidence to get jobs.

I want to make the extraordinary seem ordinary

People think it’s extraordinary that disabled people work but I want to make the extraordinary seem ordinary. We want to contribute to our communities as much as an able-bodied person. We have no reason not to be and we shouldn’t be stopped from doing that.

Employers may see disabled people as having certain disadvantages, but those disadvantages can actually be very advantageous. We have to be problem solvers, we’re determined, resilient and we want to work.

A massive barrier is people’s attitudes. People see us in the Paralympics and think “oh look at that blind person running” but we can do so many other things. People need to see the variety of jobs that disabled people are in.

The panel sit behind a white table in front of a screen that reads "An inclusive future"

Policies and support need to be better

At the Job Centre, there was the assumption that I only wanted part-time work. Well, no. I might be disabled but I can still work full time. I want to contribute as much as anyone else and I can.

Information about the support available also needs to be better. Technology is essential in supporting me to do my job as well as anyone else can and that’s provided by Access to Work. But it took four weeks after my assessment for my equipment to arrive – four weeks where I wasn’t able to do my job. Also, research done by Scope showed that around half of people said they don’t know about Access to Work or don’t know how to get it. Well, that needs to change. Without Access to Work, there’s no way I could do my job.

Stories show people what’s possible

We need to share success stories and use them to show disabled people and employers that disability doesn’t have to be a barrier. Stories change people’s minds. Scope’s End the Awkward campaign has changed people’s minds already – people often talk to me about it. By seeing disabled people doing things, you believe that it’s possible.

It’s also important that disabled people believe in themselves. When you see others succeeding, you think “Maybe I can do that”. Commonly more negative stories are shared and people see those and think it’s not going to happen. I know towards the end of my job hunt I wanted to give up. I just didn’t think I was ever going to get a job. I knew I could do it but by the end it was like “Can I?”

A massive thing for disabled people is confidence. The world is not an easy place to live if you’re disabled – you’re faced with barriers left, right and centre. But there are also ways to overcome those barriers. And it’s about learning those ways and being given the right support. You get ground down by applying for jobs and not getting anywhere.

Lauren crouching down with her guide dog, both wearing robes at her graduation ceremony
Lauren and her guide dog at her graduation ceremony

Sharing knowledge is really important

Another thing I would love to see would be the option to have a mentor – either another people who is disabled and currently in work or an employer. Sharing experience is a massive thing because it builds up that self confidence and that knowledge. You’re not going to learn something unless you’ve got someone showing you. I want everyone to see that disabled people can work just like everyone else. My line manager went for an interview and said that she worked with someone who’s blind and they were like “How?” and she was liked “Well, like this…” and that’s the thing, it’s a transfer of knowledge.

I also think it’s important to educate people when they’re young, which is something Scope are doing at the moment, with their Role Models programme. The more people see at a younger age, the better their attitudes will be. Sometimes older people say it’s amazing that I’m working – well, it’s not really that amazing and they wouldn’t say that to my brother, who’s sighted.

Working together to change the future of employment

Today was great. Everyone on the panel spoke about the many things that can be done to help disabled people find and stay in work. We also spoke about things that aren’t being done that should be – some things that can easily be implemented and other things that may be more difficult and how funds can be better used.

I really enjoyed having this opportunity to talk to disabled people, politicians and people who worked for different charities, all of us coming together to share the knowledge and ideas that we have, to help change the future for disabled people in employment.

Scope has partnered with the Fabian Society to produce a series of essays that look at how the modern and future world of work can be inclusive for disabled people.

To read more about Lauren’s journey into work, read her previous blog.

If you have an employment story you would like to share, get in touch with the Stories team.

Do disabled people have enough choice and control in social care?

The NHS published its latest statistics on social care this month, which showed improvements in many areas for disabled social care users. But dig a little deeper into the data, and you’ll find that there is still room for improvement, with many people reporting they need more choice and control in their lives.

There is a general rule at the moment in social care that things are not going so well for the people who use this essential service. Research Scope undertook, for example, found more than 50 per cent of participants felt social care does not support working age disabled people to live independently, and in separate research on integrated care we found this system needs to get better at taking into account the needs of working age disabled people at the planning and delivery stages so it can work for all social care users, not primarily for those over 65.

We know that a significant proportion of young disabled people – those between ages 17 and 30 – can suffer ‘significant setbacks’ as a result of inadequate care, which includes not getting the care they need for extended periods, or finding it difficult to access employment. So with this year’s latest survey results on social care user’s perceptions of the service published two weeks ago, are things getting better? Perhaps.

What we found

Every year NHS Digital brings out its Personal Social Services Adult Social Care Survey. The survey asks around 70,000 social care users what their views are on a number of aspects of the service, of which approximately 97.5 per cent identified a condition or impairment as their prime reason for needing social care. We drew our findings from this group.

What we found from our research is that broadly speaking, many disabled social care users see the system as delivering a decent standard of care. That care supports them to have more control over their lives, as well interact with others socially (which many who don’t rely on social care support take for granted).

When asked whether care helps them to have a better quality of life, a staggering 92 per cent said yes. And over 60 per cent said they felt very good or good about their life at the moment. Few would say these aren’t top marks for social care’s score card.

Digging a little deeper

It’s only when you dig a bit deeper into the data that more still needs to be done to improve outcomes for disabled social care users. On questions about choice and control, a significant proportion (34 per cent) reported as having as much choice and control over their lives as they wanted, and 90 per cent said care and support services help disabled people to have control over their daily life. This still leaves two thirds (66 per cent) of respondents who felt they could have more control over their lives, and 6 per cent having no control over their daily life.

On social contact, levels are good but there is room for improvement. Generally respondents said that they had as much social contact as they want (45 per cent). But for 32 per cent of respondents, the amount of social contact they had was just “adequate”, meaning for some there is a need for improvement, and the remaining 22 per cent said they were not getting enough or felt socially isolated.

What next?

It is really promising to see progress is being made and satisfaction is on the up in some areas of social care. Central government and local authorities still have some work to do to drive those numbers up across the board, and we recognise this starts by increasing funding into social care in order to make the good intentions of the Care Act achievable.

Later this year, we will publish a report on young disabled people’s experiences of using support services to live independently. Read more about our work on social care on our website. 

What to expect from the Queen’s Speech

Today Her Majesty the Queen will deliver a speech outlining the government’s legislative priorities for the 2016/17 parliamentary year in what will be defining year for Prime Minister David Cameron.

We’ve been looking at the Bills which might be included in the speech, and the impact they may have on disabled people and their families.

Life chances agenda

On 11 January the Prime Minister outlined his vision for the government’s life chances strategy. The strategy outlines how the government plan to tackle social barriers and help children, born into disadvantage or poverty, through opportunities to advance themselves.  Many of the ideas in the Prime Minister’s speech could be launched within the Queen’s Speech.

The Queen’s Speech is an opportunity for the Prime Minister to build upon work on the life chances agenda to ensure that disabled people are able to reach their full potential. It is vital the government prioritises key issues of independent living; extra costs disabled people face and halving the employment gap.

An energy bill?

The Extra Costs Commission was a year-long independent inquiry that identified ways to drive down extra costs for disabled people. The report found disabled people spent an extra £550 (on average) a month – higher than normal energy costs was one area the Commission specifically highlighted.

The government draft energy bill will deliver an energy smart meter into every British home by 2020 and accelerate the time it takes for individuals to switch suppliers.

However, in order for disabled people to access information about different tariffs, it is important that energy comparison and switching services have accessible websites and offline support options as well, e.g. telephone. By failing to meet the needs of disabled people, businesses could be missing out on a share of £420 million in business each week.

As such, it is critical that the government and energy regulators take steps to ensure a greater focus by energy companies is placed on the needs of disabled people – one in three fuel poor homes has a disabled person in it.

A digital economy bill?

Another piece of legislation widely reported to be announced concerns telephone masts, broadband connections and digital infrastructure. The Bill is likely to be part of a broader digital strategy, launched by culture minister Ed Vaizey in late 2015 and will also feature commitments on a universal service obligation for superfast broadband.

However, 27 per cent of disabled adults have never used the internet, compared to 11 per cent of the adult population overall. Therefore, any new digital strategy must tackle this digital divide and ensure disabled people can access the best deals.

Next steps

We are not expecting any further bills that relate to employment but it is important to ensure more disabled people are supported to find and stay in work and that this approach forms a significant focus of the life chances agenda. Last week the government announced plans to publish a Green Paper later in the year, a document setting out new policies, regarding a strategy for supporting disabled people.

Many disabled people want to work and are pushing hard to find jobs, but they continue to face huge barriers. Too many disabled people are not able to access the support they need to enter and stay in work and the Green Paper is an important opportunity to address these issues and we hope the government does so.

Scope will be following the speech and subsequent closely, analysing how the measures announced will affect disabled people. Follow us on Twitter to keep up to date with how the speech unfolds.

Welfare Reform and Work Bill: next steps after the Lords’ vote

Our last blog on the bill outlined the two priority areas for Scope – the proposed reduction in financial support to some disabled people and reporting on the Government’s progress in getting disabled people in to work.

The Bill has now reached ‘ping pong’ stage – it will be passed between the House of Lords and the House of Commons until an agreement can be reached.

The amendments

During their last debate in January, members of the House of Lords voted on a number of changes to the Bill, including:

  1. Preventing unemployed disabled people from losing essential support

The Bill proposes a reduction in financial support for new claimants in the Work Related Activity Group Employment of Support Allowance of around £30 per week.

This would impact nearly half a million people, risking households falling in to financial hardship and pushing disabled people further away from the jobs market.

The Government’s plans to reduce this support were defeated by 283 votes to 198 at the House of Lords. Now the Bill is being passed back to the Commons, it will fall to MPs to either uphold or reject this decision.

We think MPs should accept this amendment because we are worried about the impact a reduction in financial support could have. Disabled people are usually out of work for longer periods of time than people claiming jobseekers allowance. They are less likely to have savings and more likely to be in debt than non-disabled people, which makes adjusting to a reduction in income much more difficult.

Whether it’s paying for an internet connection to look for jobs, to transport to an interview, or appropriate work clothing, the process of finding work can come with substantial additional costs for disabled people. Reducing the amount of money available to meet these costs could move some disabled people further away from work.

People who are currently supported under the Work Related Activity Group should be protected from these changes, which are intended to only affect new claimants from April 2017. However, an unintended consequence of this could mean that some disabled people are put off starting work, because if they were to then fall out of work they would receive ESA at the new lower rate.

  1. Measuring progress towards halving the disability employment gap

In their 2015 election manifesto, the Government committed to halving the disability employment gap.

The employment rate for disabled people doesn’t follow economic cycles in the same way as the employment rate for the wider population. This means it’s crucial that we measure progress towards reducing the gap in employment between disabled and non-disabled people to ensure that disabled people have the same opportunities to get in to and progress in work as everyone else.

This priority was raised through another amendment to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, which proposed to make annual reporting on progress on the gap a legal requirement for government.

Although this amendment wasn’t taken up, we were pleased to hear Lord Freud ‘formally commit’to including updates on progress in reducing the disability employment gap within a new annual report on progress towards full employment. His comments mark the firmest commitment from government in this area over the course of the bill so far.

We are now looking for more detail on what reporting will involve. It is essential that changes in the employment gap are measured against the same criteria on an annual basis. This will give a clear indication of where further work is needed to ensure the government makes real progress towards its goal.

We will be live tweeting the debate on Tuesday 23 February, and you can follow proceedings live online on Parliament TV. Watch out for more blog updates on the bill as it progresses through parliament.  

Welfare and Work Bill – our priorities in the closing stages

The Welfare and Work Bill that is currently going through Parliament is a big priority for Scope because it will have a major impact on the employment prospects of disabled people.

As scrutiny reaches its final stages in the House of Lords, and as set out in our last blog post on the Bill, Scope is focused on two key issues – opposing the proposed cut to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for some disabled people, and persuading the Government to report on progress in meeting their commitment to halve the disability employment gap.

Disability employment gap reporting

A key issue for Scope is requiring the Government to report annually on progress in meeting its manifesto commitment to halving the disability employment gap. The first clause of this Bill introduces a reporting obligation on the Government’s progress towards achieving full employment, ensuring Parliamentarians and the public are kept informed of progress towards meeting this target.

Scope believes that this should include a requirement for the Government to report annually on meeting its commitment to halve the disability employment gap, which itself set as a Manifesto commitment.

The gap between disabled people’s employment rate and the rest of the population has remained stubbornly static at around 30% for the last decade. The Government cannot hope achieve its objective of full employment unless it halves this gap. Reporting annually on progress towards doing so, will draw attention and accountability to this very welcome commitment, and will greatly help to prioritise its delivery by the Government.

This looks set to be the first issue that Peers debate then the Bill’s Report Stage starts later today.

Opposing reduction to ESA

On Wednesday, they will turn their attention to the Government’s proposed cut to Employment and Support Allowance for disabled people in the Work Related Activity Group.

In previous blog posts and Parliamentary briefings, we have set out how this proposed cut of £30 a week will adversely affect some disabled people, who have been found unfit for work by an independent assessment. The cut will disincentivise them from finding employment, and push them further from the labour market.

Two important developments have powerfully brought home this message to Parliamentarians recently. At Lords Committee Stage, Scope and our coalition partners in the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), supported Lord Low, and Baronesses Meacher and Grey Thompson, to review the impact of the ESA WRAG cut.

From evidence received from disabled people, as well as organisations representing them, the review found the proposed cut to ESA WRAG would make it much harder for people in this group to find work. This is because it would more difficult to be able to afford training, work experience and volunteering. Cutting benefits would also lead to stress and anxiety as people struggled to pay the bills, affecting their physical and mental health, according to the review’s findings.

It recommends that Government should not push ahead with the cut. Instead, they should put in place better support for disabled people to help them build up their skills and support to look for, and stay in, work.

Disabled people had the opportunity to communicate these messages face to face with MPs  in a lobby of Parliament a couple of weeks ago, which was attended by nearly a hundred members of Parliament.

The review and lobby of Parliament have generated considerable momentum behind the campaign to reverse the ESA WRAG reduction. Both independent and leading opposition Peers have signed up to amendments to scrap the ESA WRAG cut, and its equivalent in the Universal Credit system. Scope and our DBC partners are very hopeful that this will herald a vote against a reduction in ESA on Wednesday night in the House of Lords.

We will be live tweeting the debates on Monday 25 January and Wednesday 27 January, and you can follow proceedings live online on Parliament TV. Watch out for more blog updates on the bill as it leaves the Lords, and MPs consider any changes they have made.