The UK government has been accused of ‘leaving the disabled behind’ in its drive for greater employment. The story emerged after a report was released showing that in more than half the households in the UK where no one works, there was at least one adult with a disability.
The report was published by the Resolution Foundation thinktank, headed by former Tory Minister David Willets. It has suggested that the government focus the same amount of energy on the issue as it has previously done with getting single parents into the workplace.
Good news and bad news
There was some good news, with the overall number of households with no one in work falling from around 20.5% in 1996 to 15.4% in 2015. However, those homes left with no one in work contained a disproportionately large number of people with disabilities, and it is this that needs to be addressed. This amounted to around 1.6 million homes in the UK.
The goal of getting more disabled people into work can be achieved by using tax credit incentives for those who work more than 16 hours a week. The report says: ‘For disabled people, the extent to which the tax credit system provides a incentive to work may be outweighed by the barrier to work that disability can create. A person may struggle to meet the 16 hours requirement due to the nature of their disability, or in the case of a couple, caring responsibilities. The success of policy measures to boost parental employment provide something of a template when designing support for disabled people, although it is clear that the support in place has not been effective enough and a significant shift in thinking about the barriers faced by disabled people is required.’
The future of working life for disabled people
The report has recommended a fundamental shift in government policy, which will be outlined in an upcoming white paper, which will address the issue. The government needs to focus its attention on helping disabled people get into work. This will follow on from previous legislation that has required workplaces to install disabled access and safety equipment, such as evac chairs. It’s now time for them to complete the job.