Is full-employment achievable?

What do you think:

  • Is ill-health/disability the biggest barrier to full employment?
  • Or is it employer discrimination?
  • Or the lack of a cohesive and comprehensive disability employment strategy and the tools to deliver it?

According to the Resolution Foundation’s recent report, we need to focus more on those who are economically inactive (not just those who are unemployed).  This proposition means getting away from thinking just about those claiming Jobseekers Allowance and putting more support in to those on ESA/IB, Income Support, Carers Allowance  plus the constantly increasing numbers of people who are not working but surviving without claiming any benefits.

To give a sense of scale, in terms of benefits, there are roughly three economically inactive claimants for each unemployed claimant.  So this proposition starts looking very different from the Work Programme, is already reflected in the Building Better Opportunities projects underway across most of the Local enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and heralds the forthcoming Work and Health programme.

This proposition also changes the profile of potential clients significantly.  For example, about a third of unemployed people have long-term health conditions/disabilities (some are claiming JSA and some ESA claimants are actively looking for work); nearly two thirds of the far larger economically inactive claimant group are likely to be disabled people too.

And full employment also needs to tackle early job exits – when people stop work due to ill-health or opt for early retirement for a variety of reasons – both deplete the national workforce.  Far too many employers use the benefits system as a pseudo-medical retirement scheme – without effective challenge by Government (or individuals).  For example, with over 300,000 people leaving work each year for disability benefits, where is the systematic challenge to former employers about the reasonable adjustments they may have failed to deliver?  Instead, recourse via employment tribunals relies on individuals in the weakest situations taking up the fight to mend a national policy failure.  A David and Goliath battle without the slingshot.

Anyone in the employment support industry needs to be alert to the change of emphasis in the future, sharpen up their ability to support disabled clients and gather the evidence to win future funding/contracts.

 

Penny Melville-Brown

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

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