An independent report on income inequalities – commissioned by the government – has concluded that nearly a third of disabled people are living in poverty.
Official statistics previously estimated about a quarter of disabled people were in poverty, but An Anatomy of Economic Inequality in the UK says the figure is probably more than 30 per cent.
This is because the report’s authors believe official measures of poverty should not count those disability benefits – such as disability living allowance – that help cover the extra costs of an impairment.
The report also concludes that there appears to be “straightforward discrimination in recruitment” affecting disabled people, particularly in the private sector.
It says recent experiments suggest that “those disclosing a disability are less likely to be called for interview than those with otherwise identical CVs”.
And it calls for a stronger government focus on boosting the employment of disabled people, particularly those with mental health conditions.
The report says the problem “is most intense” for those with low or no qualifications, and that employment rates for disabled men with low or no qualifications have “fallen considerably” in the last 25 years.
Nearly a third of working age adults who are disabled according to the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) – and also have a condition that limits the work they can do – have no qualifications, compared with 12 per cent of non-disabled adults.
The report says the average (median) weekly income of men who are both DDA-disabled and have a work-limiting condition is less than half that of non-disabled men (£157 compared with £316 per week). The corresponding figures for women are £131 and £198.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission welcomed the report. Neil Kinghan, its director general, said: “The value of this report is how it pinpoints the combinations of circumstance that create the most acute instances of disadvantage: that as well as socio-economic class, race, gender, disability and other factors still matter very deeply.”
The commission will soon publish research on how employers can improve workplace support for disabled people, for example through reasonable adjustments, and particularly focusing on those with mental health conditions.
Susan Scott-Parker, chief executive of the Employers’ Forum on Disability, said the findings were “a stark reminder” of the barriers disabled people can face, and showed that employers must ensure their appraisal and promotion processes do not discriminate against disabled people.
But she warned that “any work to tackle inequality through employment policies needs to position employers as part of the solution, not the problem”.
28 January 2010