Thomas Pocklington Trust (TPT) welcomes the publication of the Government’s proposals for addressing the barriers to employment faced by disabled people (“Improving lives – the future of work, health and disability“).
The Government has recognised the serious problem that only around half of disabled people of working age are in work. But the position for registered blind and partially sighted people is even worse, with only one in four in employment.
The ambition to get a million more disabled people into work in the next ten years is welcome, but we do not see how the proposed improved training programme for Work Coaches in Jobcentres will amount to the high-quality, personalised and impairment-specific employment support that is needed. A more ambitious programme of investment in employment services for disabled people will be needed to achieve this.
The Access to Work scheme is an important tool in helping disabled people to find and keep employment, but there are many problems in its practical operation which is too often failing disabled people. There are some modest although welcome proposals for improvement here, but much more is needed. Disability organisations, including TPT, have developed a number of proposals to make the scheme work better in practice – we look forward to engaging with government to take these forward.
A social security system that supports people in and out of work and secures an acceptable standard of living is an important aspect of the work, health and disability discussion. The document is thin here. The need for substantial improvement to the work capability assessment needs to be recognised. There is also no mention of the disincentives to work-related activity created by ill-advised cuts to Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit. Reversing these could be seen as an investment rather than a cost.
Finally, we agree that changing employers’ perceptions of what disabled people can contribute is key to making progress. We would add that employment of disabled people, not least those with visual impairments, should be seen as a vital part of wider economic and industrial strategy and not as a niche issue.
For more information on TPT’s response, please contact us: E&A@pocklington-trust.org.uk.