Two million people still in disability employment gap
24 February 2015
by Ciaran Osborne
To some fanfare, the Department for Work and Pensions announced this week that there were 141,000 more disabled people in work today than there were last year. That’s more than 400 extra disabled people in work every day.
We should welcome the increase. Every one of those people is likely to be better off than they were last year.
But, perhaps there is more to the story. Less than half (46%) of disabled 16- to 64-year-olds are currently in work, compared to more than three quarters (79%) of their non-disabled peers.
As a result, there is an enormous ‘disability employment gap’ of more than two million disabled people.
While an extra 114,000 disabled people working over one year is a good thing, it would still take at least 20 years for the gap to close completely if it narrowed at the same rate every year. And sadly, that’s likely to be over-optimistic.
There is a broad range of steps that the government must take to ensure that disabled people can find work as easily as their non-disabled friends and families. These include:
- reforming Access to Work support
- raising the dire success rates of the Work Programme in finding disabled people work
- offering incentives and support to employers to help them to hire more disabled people
One good idea is being raised in the UK Parliament this week by Debbie Abrahams MP, who has tabled a 10-minute rule bill to require employers to report how many disabled staff they employ. It would be enlightening to find out which companies — large and small — are employing disabled people, and which are failing to do so.
It’s a good step in the right direction, but a small one. Here’s hoping that the next government, of whatever composition, is ready to make bigger and faster steps towards getting those two million disabled people a regular income.
Ciaran Osborne is the policy and research manager in Leonard Cheshire Disability's campaigns team.