Last week the Work and Pensions Select Committee published its recommendations on disability employment. United Response was very pleased to be invited to give evidence to their investigation.

With the consultation on the Government’s green paper on work, health and disability, closing next week, the publication of the Select Committee’s report is timely and provides a constructive step towards enabling the Government to achieve its ambition to halve the disability employment gap.

We agree with the Committee’s assertion that the ambition to halve the gap will take a long term and a sustained multi-agency approach, and welcome its recommendation that Government publish a Disability Employment Strategy and an annual report on progress. It is vital that the Government’s commitment is set against a defined timeline for successful achievement of the goals.

‘The gap within the gap’

As an organisation which primarily supports adults with learning disabilities, autism and mental health needs, we are particularly keen that the Government addresses ‘the gap within the gap’ which exists within disability employment. Whilst the overall employment figures for disabled people stand at 47% (as compared to 80% of the population as a whole), this figure falls to a woeful 5.8% for people with learning disabilities and this needs to change. 

We urge that the Government’s reporting on progress includes a breakdown into different cohorts, so we can see how well we are doing at supporting all groups of disabled people into work.

Valuable recommendations

The Committee makes some valuable recommendations to assist in shaping the delivery of the aspiration of halving the gap.

We know that sustained job entry rates are much improved when disabled people are voluntary participants on programmes. We welcome the Committee’s view that mandatory involvement of disabled people is inappropriate.

The Committee highlights the value of employer incentives in enabling disabled people to stay in work. We know that some Work Choice providers have developed good practical ‘offers; for employers which are proven to work. The Government should ensure that these approaches can continue under the Work and Health Programme.

Getting the right specialist support to those furthest from the workplace is crucial. To achieve this, there needs to be better coordination from JobCentre Plus (JCP) staff to join up health, care, work and employers locally. We also urge government to scrutinise whether those positive measures that have been put in place – including the Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) set out in the Children & Families’ Act – are being adequately enacted in practice.

Many people we support have complex disabilities and mental health needs, as such we very much welcome the Committee’s call on the Government to set out what changes to exempt some severely disabled claimants from repeated benefits reassessment. We know that this currently causes great and needless distress to many disabled people and their families. We would also agree with the Committee’s views on the risks of reducing the rates of ESA for new claimants. There is substantial evidence that disabled job-seekers do have higher day-to-day costs and these should be recognised.

Making Access to Work more accessible

Access to Work is widely regarded as the Government’s “best kept secret”; it is not nearly widely known enough amongst either disabled job seekers, employers or JCP staff. The process for applying needs to be much more accessible and crucially, we believe that there needs to be an “agreement in principle” from JCP to pay for support, which would de-risk an employment offer for businesses and give disabled people themselves greater peace of mind. There also needs to be the ability to passport Access to Work so that a disabled worker does not need to reapply for the same support when moving jobs or even when moving to a new role with an existing employer.

No one should be left behind

The Green Paper “Improving Lives” says that no one should be left behind. The Work and Pensions Select Committee’s recommendations go a long way to making this happen and we urge the Government to take them on board.

The consultation on the Green Paper closes on Friday 17th February. United Response has gathered the views of the people we support and our staff and will be making our submission shortly. Keep an eye on our blog to find out more.

You can read the green paper and contribute your own views online. 

Read and respond to the Green Paper