There are more disabled people claiming out-of-work benefits than any other group.
I discovered this weekend that talking about “Glasto” seems to be the way to show one is cool and in touch with the music festival scene. Clearly I’m not – but was at a great little event in the New Forest at the weekend. It seemed to be aimed at the Baby Boomers as the refreshments were either Pimms or champagne plus locally-sourced comestibles. All very civilised and lots of family groups until it got too cold.
Did you know?
In previous times, the number of people claiming Incapacity Benefit gave a broad approximation of numbers of unemployed disabled people. Now things have changed: with the introduction of Welfare Reforms and the Work Capability Assessments, about a quarter of Jobseeker Allowance claimants now have long-term health conditions/disabilities in addition to those claiming Employment and Support Allowance making them the largest group of unemployed people.
Despite much enthusiasm, the Work Programme has not proved successful for this large group as described in a recent paper by Inclusion. They and Scope have issued further reports and recommendations for improvements. I have gathered some highlights and nuggets of information from their reports.
There can be little doubt that we cannot afford so many people being lost to the workforce due to the onset of disabling conditions. Based on Scope’s figures, about eight million people (80% of all disabled people) gain their impairments during their working lives and, at the moment, only just over half of them manage to keep their jobs. We need the health services to actively help people stay at work: providing treatment without disabling delays. Last year, for example, for every two disabled people falling out of work, less than one managed to return. This suggests that, with an ageing workforce with increasing propensity for disability, tackling retention by employers must be a top priority. Lots of employers manage this and reap the benefits: there are about 4 million disabled people at work and nearly 40% have been with the same employer for over 10 years. Now we need to get the rest doing the same – seet the ‘Disability Confident’ video clips
All the evidence indicates that, once disabled people have left work, their likelihood of returning is low – with many poor consequences for each individual and the overall economy. Just considering the couple of million or so unemployed disabled people who say they want to get back to work, effective employment support to fulfil their goal could improve the economy by about £26billion.
There is the will to make changes. Thankfully, the old days are over: people being relegated to Incapacity Benefit with little support so being more likely to reach retirement age than get a job if they didn’t get off the benefit within 12 months. The concept of Employment and Support Allowance holds promise despite the on-going controversy around the Work Capability Assessments. However, the timing and pressures of the economic situation have been a huge disadvantage.
The absence of successful employment support hasn’t helped either: specialist Jobcentre staff are becoming as rare as hen’s teeth, the Work Programme hasn’t done as well as hoped and the “specialist” Work Choice help wasn’t well targeted. Alongside, disabled people seem likely to bear the brunt of the future Welfare Cap.
The pressure on the Department for Work and Pensions “Disability and Health Employment Strategy” is going to be intense but it could produce great benefits for everyone if it has realistic resourcing and timescales, makes best use of local, specialist support and gains the active commitment of the health sector and employers. We need to keep their toes to the fire and to make sure this happens. So it’s a bit disappointing that the proposals for the ESF Operational Programme 2014-20 don’t yet take much account of disabled people.
Bouquet of the week.
After years of train travel all over the country, I can’t speak highly enough of the station staff who provide passenger assistance. Whether I’m at Birmingham, Chesterfield, Fareham, Southampton Parkway, Waterloo or somewhere in-between, they have been excellent. And it’s a great relief (and rather fun) to be swept through Waterloo on the buggy rather than having to negotiate the rush-hour crowds. Of course, there have been the odd exceptions. There was a memorable occasion when, after waiting nearly an hour for my connecting train, I was put on to one going back to Chesterfield. Blissfully unaware due to laptop ear plugs, it was a rude awakening to be fished off the train at Derby to do a lap of honour back to Birmingham again. But they did manage to hold the next connecting train: imagine the sight of cane-wielding blind person flanked by apologetic out-riders cutting a swathe down the platform – at speed! Assistance at stations is invaluable and has the huge bonus of all those snatched conversations: over the years, hearing about the lives of a whole network of people – even down to the latest tattoo. It makes train travel a completely different experience
Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk
Helping disabled people to work since 2000