“Improving lives – work, health and disability”

What do you think:

  • Got some good ideas about reducing the personal and benefit costs by helping more disabled people to work?
  • Is more power for Jobcentre work coaches, doctors and others in the health service good or worrying?
  • Is this a joined-up strategy or a collection of good ideas?

I strongly commend the Government’s recent “Improving Lives – The Work, Health and Disability Green Paper”: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/564038/work-and-health-green-paper-improving-lives.pdf

It is all about changing attitudes and resolving the injustice that stops us disabled people fulfilling our potential.  They are seeking your ideas, experience and evidence as they try to shape a way to get one million disabled people in to work over ten years of reform.

The paper is good in clearly drawing on the knowledge of many of us active at the front-line of disability employment: none of it is rocket science.  But there is quite a lot of “motherhood and apple pie” ideas with which few would argue but not enough hard, practical detail that would make those ideas work in reality.

And there are some elements that send a shiver down the spine such as:

  • Giving Jobcentre coaches “discretion to make case-by-case decisions about the type of employment support a person is able to engage with” (para 132).  If this is linked with conditionality, sanctions and without any formal appeal process, there’s risk that clients could be in real jeopardy.
  • The almost complete dismissal of self-employment (para 97)is staggering when we know that working disabled people are more likely to follow this option than their non-disabled peers – and the performance of the New Enterprise allowance falls far short of what could be expected for disabled people.
  • The weak section aimed at improving employer’s willingness to take on and retain disabled people.  There’s still too much emphasis on large employers without properly targeting the sectors where disabled people may have more realistic job prospects. But they do float the idea of mandatory contact between employers and sick employees plus action to help their return – there’s good mileage here (para 200).
  • Chapter 5 on increasing NHS support is probably wildly optimistic when all the headlines are about under-funding.  And clinicians need to acquire a whole new set of knowledge: their great on medical conditions but pretty poor on understanding the real-life consequences that are disabling.
  • Not enough mention of disabled people themselves being part of the governance of all these new ideas.


Overall, the paper is rather like a Dalmatian: lots of attractive spots but not well-joined up!

Don’t be shy – have your say too – the closing date for comments is 17 February 2017.

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

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