Statement: Disability and Employment

Government must engage with specialist providers to support disabled people into work

The announcement of a new Health & Work programme to support disabled people and other long term unemployed people back to work is a welcome step forward, as is the expansion of Access to Work; a benefit which has helped many thousands of disabled people enter – and remain in – the workplace.

We now call on the Government to engage with specialist disability employment providers in the design of this new programme, ensuring that the knowledge and experience gained from delivering Work Choice is not lost.

It is important that the Government ensures that the whole system works to enable disabled people to return to work. Specialist Disability Equality Advisers (DEAs) have all but disappeared from job centres, often replaced by an electronic portal which itself represents a huge barrier for many disabled people. It is therefore vital that the Government in its current review of specialist employment programmes commits real and proper funding and resources to maintain and expand these programmes that are proven to help the most vulnerable move towards – and into – work.

We welcome the scrapping of proposals to remove tax credits as good news for our society and vital news for a huge number of families and individuals, including the vast social care workforce. However, we remain incredibly concerned about the plans to forge ahead with other welfare reforms, including the move to “align” new ESA claimants with JSA benefits and “conditionality”.

“Specifically, we are concerned that those in the ESA Work Related Activity Group (ESA WRAG) will lose £30 a week in their benefits under these proposals. This group has been assessed by government as fit to work in the future but NOT fit to work currently and so it is extremely difficult to see how making this vulnerable group even poorer can possibly improve their fitness – or wellness – to work.

“Similarly, whilst the announcement of a new apprenticeships programme is welcome, such a programme must be set up in a way that includes disabled people from the outset. Only then will the Government meet its manifesto commitment to close the employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people.”

Tim Cooper, Chief Executive, United Response