I recently met with Scope, a disability rights charity which works to provide disabled people with the same opportunities everyone else has.
Our meeting followed the release of the Department for Work and Pension’s plan https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/663399/improving-lives-the-future-of-work-health-and-disability.PDF to address Britain’s disability employment crisis. In that report, the government dropped its pledge to halve the disability employment gap. This comes in spite of figures suggesting that fewer than half of all disabled people have a job, compared to 4 in 5 non-disabled people.
In fact, the situation has got so bad that the UK was recently condemned by the UN for its poor record when it comes to supporting disabled people. The UN found what many disabled people know only too well, and as I have found from many conversations on the doorstep with disabled people in Oxford, as well as the parents of local disabled children. Cuts to the NHS and with social security are really biting for people with disabilities, conditionality for accessing financial support isn’t working (especially when it comes to people with mental health problems, but for other conditions too), and employers aren’t aware of the financial support out there to support those people who need workplace adjustments to be made.
It was worrying to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer suggest earlier this month that disabled people were responsible for the UK’s falling productivity; in practice, evidence suggests the opposite is the case, with more diverse workplaces tending to be more productive.
My meeting with Scope convinced me that there can be a bright future which harnesses the potential of disabled people. For that to happen, though, we need a change in approach from the government, as well as from many employers.
For more information about Scope, see www.scope.org.uk.