Government employment support for disabled people should be personalised and focused “on the individual and not the institution”, with a move away from funding for segregated workplaces, according to a major new review.
Liz Sayce, chief executive of RADAR, who led the review, said she had concluded that individual disabled people should be enabled to take their support “into any job or from job to job”.
She suggested that the government should set up a single specialist disability employment programme – to run alongside its mainstream Work Programme – to provide disabled job-seekers with a “personal budget” to buy their own employment support.
She said this would “radically simplify” the support available, “put more power in the hands of disabled people”, and ensure the money available could “serve more people”.
But she insisted that any savings made from making support more cost-effective must be ploughed back into supporting more disabled people.
Sayce also called for the number of people who receive funding through the “highly cost-effective” Access to Work programme to double, although she also called for major improvements to the scheme.
But there were angry scenes – with a police officer forced briefly to intervene after Remploy trade union officials began shouting at Sayce and colleagues – over her proposals for the remaining 54 sheltered Remploy factories.
Sayce said there was “total consensus” among disabled people’s organisations that segregated employment, like the Remploy factories, was “not a model for the 21st century”.
She suggested that factories that were not viable businesses should no longer be subsidised by the government, but those that were could be taken over by disabled employees and become social enterprises, co-operatives, or “mutuals” owned by the employees.
And she called for the country’s nine residential training colleges to become more flexible, offering their services to more disabled people, for example through offering e-learning courses, linking with further education colleges, or subcontracting their services to the government’s Work Programme.
She said that only 230 disabled people secured work through the colleges in 2009-10, at an average cost of £78,000 per person.
Dr Rachel Perkins, the chair of the government’s Equality 2025 advice body of disabled people, who was part of the review’s scrutiny panel, called on the government to implement the report in full.
She said: “I know it is possible for those of us who are the most excluded to actually work, to work alongside everyone else and have good careers. I know. I have seen it. But only with the right kind of flexible, individual support.”
Mike Adams, chief executive of Essex Coalition of Disabled People and another member of the panel, also welcomed the review and its focus on “building employment programmes around the needs of individuals”.
Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, described the review as “very considered” and an “extremely bold vision”, and promised that it was “about spending money differently, not cutting it”.
She said: “Disabled people are part of mainstream society and that means being part of the mainstream workplace.”
She said the government had already accepted one of the recommendations, to set up a cross-government group of ministers to “drive forward a strategy for disabled people’s employment”.
Miller said the government would consider the recommendations before responding further, but would consult before making any decisions.
9 June 2011