COMMONS

Disability employment gap inquiry launched

30 March 2016

The Work and Pensions Committee launches an inquiry into the Government’s commitment to halve the "disability employment gap" – the difference in employment rates between disabled and non-disabled people. The inquiry assesses the scale of the challenge and the likely effectiveness of the Government’s employment support and benefit policies in achieving this goal.

Inquiry background

The employment rate among disabled people stood at 46.7% at the end of 2015, compared with 80.3% for non-disabled people. To halve this gap would require bringing an extra 1.2 million disabled people into work.

Employment rate (% of 16-64 age group)

This chart shows that between 2013 and 2015 the employment rate for disabled people rose from 44 per cent to 47 per cent and the employment rate for non-disabled people rose from 77 per cent to 80 per cent. The gap between the two rates remained broadly unchanged at around 33 or 34 percentage points over this period. Halving the gap means raising the disabled employment rate from 47 per cent to 63.5 per cent.

The Committee’s report on Welfare to Work (PDF 625KB) (Oct 2015) noted the lack of success of employment programmes to date in supporting disabled people into sustained employment.

The Government has since announced:

  • A new Work and Health Programme to replace the current generalist Work Programme and specialist disability Work Choice programmes
  • A real terms increase in spending on the Access to Work Programme, which provides practical support for disabled people, beyond the "reasonable adjustments" required to be made by employers
  • A White Paper to be published this year which will "set out reforms to improve support for people with health conditions and disabilities, including exploring the roles of employers, to further reduce the disability employment gap and promote integration across health and employment."

Concerns raised over Disability Confident campaign

In addition, the DWP’s Disability Confident campaign, launched in 2013, aims to promote the benefits of employing disabled people to employers.

However, concerns have been raised about the abolition of the Work Related Activity component of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) worth £29.05 per week – and its equivalent in Universal Credit – for new claimants from April 2017, and the potential effects of this measure on disabled people’s ability to overcome their barriers to working.

Call for written submissions

The Committee invites written submissions addressing the following points:

Steps required to halve the disability employment gap:

  • To what extent are the current range of proposed measures likely to achieve the Government’s ambition of closing the disability employment gap?
  • Should the Government set interim targets along the way to meet the commitment to halve the disability employment gap? What should they be?

Support for employers

  • How effective is the Disability Confident campaign in reducing barriers to employment and educating employers?
  • What more could be done to support employers?

Effective employment support for disabled people:

  • What should support for people with health conditions and disabilities in the proposed Work and Health programme look like?
  • How should providers be incentivised to succeed?

Likely effects of proposed ESA reform:

  • What are the likely impacts on disability employment of the abolition of the Employment and Support Allowance Work Related Activity component?
  • What evidence is there that it will promote positive behavioural change? What evidence is there that it will have unintended consequences, and how could these be mitigated?

Send a written submission through the disability employment gap inquiry page.

Deadline for written submissions is Monday 9 May 2016.

Aim of the inquiry

The Committee intends to consider possible improvements in:

  • the DWP’s employment support programmes for disabled people
  • Support for employers to take on disabled people
  • Disabled people’s access to the labour market more broadly

The Committee will also examine possible adverse consequences of the Government’s current approach, particularly around proposed changes to ESA, and how these might be addressed.

Chair's comment

Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee said:

"The Government has made a welcome commitment to help more people with disabilities into a position where they can find and then keep a job. If it can successfully be seen through, this commitment could signal a major stride towards achieving full employment in our country.

The really important part now is to back-up this commitment with a series of reforms that are tailored to each person’s own skills and ambitions, as well as those conditions that currently limit their ability to work, so that each person can follow a feasible journey into work. We hope the evidence we receive will enable us to help the Government in its search for such a reform package."

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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