Nearly 7,000 employers that signed up to the government’s much-criticised Disability Confident jobs scheme have promised to provide just 4,500 new jobs for disabled people between them, less than one per employer.
The figures emerged as the minister for disabled people, Sarah Newton, and work and pensions secretary Esther McVey were giving evidence to the work and pensions select committee yesterday (Wednesday) for its inquiry on disability employment.
Newton had been asked to write to the committee about the Disability Confident employment scheme (see separate story), which was launched in the summer of 2013.
The scheme has three levels – Disability Confident Committed (the entry level), Disability Confident Employer and Disability Confident Leader (level three) – but it is only at level three that employers’ pledges and claims on employing disabled people are assessed independently.
In a letter to Labour MP Frank Field, who chairs the committee, Newton said that 133 employers across the UK had reached the level of Disability Confident Leader, while this number had risen by just 35 in the last six months.
In all, 6,841 employers had signed up by 22 June, with more than 4,000 at the lowest level, and just four employers in total signed up in Northern Ireland.
Employers had, by the end of March 2018, committed to provide a total of 4,586 paid jobs, 2,871 apprenticeships and 1,223 traineeships, as well as work experience, work trial, job shadowing, student placement, sector based work academy and paid internship opportunities.
Labour MP Neil Coyle, who asked Newton about the figures, said that with the current rate of progress it would take nearly 1,000 years to meet the government’s target of securing jobs for another one million disabled people in the 10 years to 2027.
He asked why employers were able to sign up to Disability Confident when they were not even employing a single disabled person.
Newton said employers that signed up were on “a journey”, which also included offering supported internships, apprenticeships and work experience.
She said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was now commissioning research which would ask employers how Disability Confident had changed their behaviour.
Newton told the committee: “We will be asking people about the number of people they have brought into employment.
“If there are changes that need to be made [to Disability Confident], we will make them.
“It’s a campaign about helping employers understand the benefits of employing people with disabilities and enabling them to do that.”
She said the research would examine whether employers have done what they said they would do.
Coyle pointed out that it was now five years since the scheme was launched by the coalition government in 2013 (pictured).
Labour’s Steve McCabe said critics had said it was too easy to sign up to Disability Confident, and asked Newton what had been done since ministers pledged to “put some teeth into the programme”.
Newton said the government wanted to make the initial step onto the scheme “deliberately very straightforward” for employers that want to sign up.
But she said they were then taken “on a journey” with increasing levels of support, and when they reach the top level [Disability Confident Leader] their commitments to the scheme are “independently, externally verified”.
Field said that if the 7,000 Disability Confident employers all employed five disabled people, it would still only add up to 35,000 disabled people.
He said: “We have a long way to go [to reach the target of one million more disabled people in work].”
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