Government cuts to spending on disability living allowance (DLA) and other benefits and support for disabled people could reverse the progress towards equality revealed by new official figures, say campaigners.
Statistics from the government’s Office for Disability Issues (ODI) show the proportion of working-age disabled people in Britain with jobs rose from 47.4 per cent in 2009 to 48.4 per cent in 2010. The proportion of non-disabled people in work fell slightly over the same period.
The figures also show that the wage gap between disabled and non-disabled workers – the difference in their mean hourly wage rates – fell from £1.01 in 2009 to 52p in 2010.
And the proportion of working-age disabled people with no qualifications also fell, from 23.2 per cent in 2009 to 20.1 per cent in 2010, while the percentage of disabled people with degree-level qualifications rose from 12.7 per cent in 2009 to 13.4 per cent in 2010.
Marije Davidson, RADAR’s public affairs manager, said progress was “still way too slow” and that “stronger action is needed to close the gap between disabled and non-disabled people”.
She said the “slight sign of progress” could be reversed if cuts to public spending meant disabled people no longer received the support they needed, with less investment in accessible buildings and transport, and cuts to public sector staff and funding of user-led organisations.
Planned cuts to DLA spending, she said, could make it harder for disabled people to fund the extra costs associated with working, such as transport, and to stay healthy as they struggle with poverty.
Linda Burnip, a founding member of Disabled People Against Cuts, also said that cutting DLA and other support for disabled people risked reversing the gains, and added: “If they don’t get DLA they will not be able to work or do all sorts of things.”
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) welcomed the new ODI figures but denied that spending cuts risked reversing the progress made towards equality.
A DWP spokeswoman said: “Since taking office in May 2010, the coalition government has set out an ambitious programme of employment support to ensure that people get the help they need to find and keep jobs.
“Our aim is that government programmes such as Work Choice and the Work Programme should support more disabled people than ever before into sustainable employment.”
20 January 2011