Commission highlights ‘double disadvantage’ faced by working-class disabled people

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Disabled people from working-class backgrounds are three times less likely than non-disabled people from privileged backgrounds to be in higher-paid jobs, according to a new report from the Social Mobility Commission.

Only 21 per cent of disabled people from working-class backgrounds are in professional or managerial jobs, compared to 63 per cent of non-disabled people from a professional or managerial family background, says the report.

The figures are contained in the commission’s sixth state of the nation report, which was published this week and includes extensive analysis of Office for National Statistics data.

The report highlights the “double disadvantage” faced by disabled people from working-class backgrounds, who are half as likely to be in the highest-paying jobs as disabled people from professional and managerial family backgrounds.

It is the first time the commission has examined how class interacts with gender, ethnicity and disability to affect social mobility.

Its report says that women, disabled people and minority ethnic groups from working-class backgrounds “generally experience multiple disadvantages in occupational outcomes”.

But disabled people from more privileged backgrounds “still face a huge disadvantage” and are 30 per cent less likely to enter professional occupations in comparison to their non-disabled peers.

The commission also examined the impact of disability in education.

Its report highlights the practice of “off rolling” – removing children from the school roll – and warned that the incentive for schools to perform well in performance tables meant some headteachers “may off-roll pupils facing disadvantage just before their exam year”.

The report says: “The national proportion of students with special educational needs and disabilities is 13 per cent, whereas 30 per cent of pupils who leave their school between Year 10 and Year 11 (GCSE examination year) have special educational needs.

“This is of concern, particularly given the intersection of disability and socio-economic disadvantage.

“This indicates that the system may be having the effect of rewarding schools for ineffective and even unethical behaviour.”

The report also highlights concerns about the impact of school funding pressures on disabled pupils, and it warns that the “increasingly fragmented education system” can mean that single academy trusts and maintained schools find it difficult to buy in the support their disabled pupils need.

Although the commission produced no recommendations for how to address the barriers facing disabled people, it is believed to be publishing a report focusing on disability this summer.

The report concludes that social mobility has stagnated over the last four years at “virtually all stages from birth to work”.

It adds: “Being born privileged in Britain means that you are likely to remain privileged.

“Being born disadvantaged, however, means that you will have to overcome a series of barriers to ensure that you and your children are not stuck in the same trap.”

The Social Mobility Commission is an advisory, non-departmental public body originally established by Labour’s Child Poverty Act 2010 as the Child Poverty Commission, but subsequently renamed under the Conservative-led coalition.

It has a duty to assess progress in improving social mobility in the UK and to promote social mobility in England.

Picture: Dame Martina Milburn, chair of the commission

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