The number of disabled people who are unemployed has risen for the second quarter in a row, according to new government figures.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) used the publication of quarterly labour market statistics to point to the growth of 225,000 in the number of disabled people in work, compared with the same period last year.
But DWP failed to point out that the number of unemployed disabled people had also risen, from 399,000 in October to December 2014, to 401,000 the following quarter, and now to 423,000 in April to June 2015.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures also show a large rise in the last quarter in the number of sick and disabled people described as “economically inactive” – those not in work and neither seeking nor available to work – from 3,313,000 to 3,399,000, an increase of 2.6 per cent in just three months.
One important factor pointed out by disabled activist Caroline Richardson, from the Spartacus online campaigning network, was that the ONS definition of employment includes those on unpaid work experience, as well as government-supported training and employment programmes.
Richardson said: “Whilst there is a clear increase in the number of ill and disabled people working part-time since 1997, those in full-time employment is harder to identify.
“The actual criteria for being counted as sick and disabled, and its impact on work, is now in line with the core definition of the 2010 Equality Act, and is for the purpose of data collection, self-reporting. The ONS is clear that the figures are therefore estimates.
“To muddy the waters further, the definition of work has also been extended to include work experience and work-related training.
“There does appear to be an increase in sick and disabled people moving into some type of work, but further analysis may show the work to be part-time, temporary or to be government-related training programmes.”
The ONS said there were 2.08 million people who were not looking for work due to long-term sickness for April to June 2015, 75,000 more than for January to March 2015 and 86,000 more than the same period in 2014.
For April to June 2015, there were 8.99 million people aged from 16 to 64 who were economically inactive.
An ONS spokesman said it was not unusual for the number of people in employment and unemployment to rise at the same time, which could happen if large numbers of people moved into the labour market but did not secure jobs.
But he said there was “no wider context we’re aware of for the effect you’ve noted”.
He also stressed that the figures relating to disabled people had not been seasonally adjusted, so it was more difficult to see whether there were genuine trends.