Disability Employment Gap 2015. Source: UK Parliament.
The Work and Pensions Committee has launched an inquiry into the Government’s commitment to halve the “disability employment gap.” According to the most recent data, 46.7% of disabled people were in work at the end of 2015 compared to 80.3% of non-disabled people. In order to close this gap, the Committee says an extra 1.2 million disabled people would need to be supported into work.
The Committee’s welfare to work report, published in October 2015, raised concerns about the lack of success of existing employment programmes in supporting disabled people into sustained employment.
The Government has since announced:
- A new Work and Health Programme to replace the current generalist Work Programme and specialist disability Work Choice programmes
- A real terms increase in spending on the Access to Work Programme, which provides practical support for disabled people, beyond the “reasonable adjustments” required to be made by employers
- A White Paper to be published this year which will “set out reforms to improve support for people with health conditions and disabilities, including exploring the roles of employers, to further reduce the disability employment gap and promote integration across health and employment.”
Concerns raised over Disability Confident campaign
In addition, the DWP’s Disability Confident campaign, launched in 2013, aims to promote the benefits of employing disabled people to employers.
However, concerns have been raised about the abolition of the Work Related Activity component of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) worth £29.05 per week – and its equivalent in Universal Credit – for new claimants from April 2017, and the potential effects of this measure on disabled people’s ability to overcome their barriers to working.
Call for written submissions
The Committee invites written submissions addressing the following points:
Steps required to halve the disability employment gap:
- To what extent are the current range of proposed measures likely to achieve the Government’s ambition of closing the disability employment gap?
- Should the Government set interim targets along the way to meet the commitment to halve the disability employment gap? What should they be?
Support for employers:
- How effective is the Disability Confident campaign in reducing barriers to employment and educating employers?
- What more could be done to support employers?
Effective employment support for disabled people:
- What should support for people with health conditions and disabilities in the proposed Work and Health programme look like?
- How should providers be incentivised to succeed?
Likely effects of proposed ESA reform:
- What are the likely impacts on disability employment of the abolition of the Employment and Support Allowance Work Related Activity component?
- What evidence is there that it will promote ‘positive behavioural change’? What evidence is there that it will have unintended consequences, and how could these be mitigated?
Aim of the inquiry
The Committee intends to consider possible improvements in:
- the DWP’s employment support programmes for disabled people
- Support for employers to take on disabled people
- Disabled people’s access to the labour market more broadly
The Committee will also examine possible adverse consequences of the Government’s current approach, particularly around proposed changes to ESA, and how these might be addressed.
Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee said:
“The Government has made a welcome commitment to help more people with disabilities into a position where they can find and then keep a job. If it can successfully be seen through, this commitment could signal a major stride towards achieving full employment in our country.
The really important part now is to back-up this commitment with a series of reforms that are tailored to each person’s own skills and ambitions, as well as those conditions that currently limit their ability to work, so that each person can follow a feasible journey into work. We hope the evidence we receive will enable us to help the Government in its search for such a reform package.”
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The deadline for written submissions is Monday 9 May 2016.