Most disabled people want to work, but the barriers they face must be considered, and acted upon, by the government. (A MUST READ!)…
We are expecting the government to publish its flagship welfare reform bill this week. The government aims to “increase the incentives to work, and reduce the incentives to stay out of work”.
For disabled people this should be great news. Most disabled people want work. But the fact is that disabled people’s employment rates remain around 50%, compared with more than 75% for the overall working population.
More disabled people working would be good news for the economy, too. Were disabled people’s employment rates to be levelled with those of non-disabled people, the economy would receive a boost of around £13bn. Unfortunately, Iain Duncan Smith’s proposals for making this happen are not subtle enough to realise their potential.
The government’s new method for assessing a person’s fitness for work is, for instance, a very blunt instrument. Someone’s ability to bend their knees or hold a pen are not the only factors that determine how likely it is that they can get a job.
Disabled people who can work and who want to work face myriad barriers. They have fewer opportunities to develop skills and experience, face practical obstacles, such as inaccessible transport, and often experience negative attitudes from employers.
I have had a successful career in IT, in transport and have founded my own consultancy. But, as a disabled person, at every stage I have had to go the extra mile to make it happen. In my first job, for instance, because I was labelled as someone who could only work in-house, not on client sites. This was detrimental to building my experience at a crucial time in my early career.
In a different industry, I had a boss who refused to make a reasonable adjustment to the time of crucial daily team briefings during a major change programme, so that I was unable to perform effectively in the team and failed in that role.
Our concern is that disabled people will be considered able to work without any understanding of the challenges they will face or the support they need to overcome those challenges. Then, when they fail to find a job or don’t manage to hold down a job, they will be penalised by having their benefits cut.
Pushing disabled people through this system is like forcing square pegs into round holes. We are asking the government to work with us to develop a serious understanding of disabled people and the support they need to find employment.