The government’s much-criticised Disability Confident jobs scheme appears to be growing increasingly less successful at persuading employers to offer jobs to disabled people, according to new Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures.
The figures, secured by Disability News Service (DNS) through a freedom of information (FoI) request, show that the 13,600 employers that have signed up to the scheme since it was launched in 2013 have pledged to provide just 8,763 paid jobs for disabled people between them.
This is an average of less than two-thirds of a job per employer.
Many of those that have signed up to Disability Confident are large employers such as local authorities, government departments, manufacturers, national charities, banks and retailers, including the big four supermarkets, more than 100 NHS trusts, and high street banks.
The figures provide fresh evidence that the scheme is “trivially easy to abuse” and allows employers to describe themselves as “disability confident” without being assessed on that claim, and without employing a single disabled person.
Three years ago, DWP declared itself a gold-standard employer of disabled people under the scheme – securing the status of “Disability Confident Leader” – just days before being found guilty of “grave and systematic violations” of the UN disability convention.
The new figures show that about 13,600 employers that had signed up to the scheme by 13 September had promised to provide 8,763 new paid jobs and 1,903 traineeships for disabled people between them*.
This compares with figures from last year year which showed how at that stage 4,586 paid jobs and 1,223 traineeships had been promised by 6,841 employers.
This means there is so far an average of 0.64 jobs per employer and 0.78 jobs and traineeships per employer, compared with 0.67 jobs and 0.85 jobs and traineeships per employer 15 months ago.
Marsha de Cordova (pictured), Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, said: “These dismal figures are yet more evidence of the failure of this government’s Disability Confident scheme.
“Under the government’s flagship employment scheme, you can become a Disability Confident employer without employing a single disabled person.
“The Disability Confident scheme lacks any accountability, transparency or credible performance measures to ensure that employers recruit disabled people.
“Labour is committed to halving the disability employment gap, closing the disability pay gap and ensuring that disabled people have equal access to the labour market.”
David Gillon, a disabled campaigner and one of the most prominent critics of the Disability Confident scheme, said: “The number of disabled jobs created by the scheme is sadly pathetic.
“Less than one job per employer, when disabled people make up one in five of the workforce.
“Under 9,000 new jobs across the three years of the revamped scheme, yet disability employment has supposedly increased by 246,000 in the past year.
“So Disability Confident is responsible for a little over one per cent of new jobs for disabled people, even though it includes some of the largest employers in the country.
“The figures are so bad you have to wonder if Disability Confident employers are actually less likely to employ disabled people [than those not signed up to the scheme].”
Gillon said Disability Confident had still signed up just “a 0.002 per cent sized drop in the ocean of 5.7 million private sector employers”.
He said: “It is obvious that Disability Confident just doesn’t grab employers by the scruff of the neck and say, ‘This is something you need to compete in today’s market.’
“When Disability Confident actually asks for less than the law requires in places, this is worrying.
“Disabled people remain three times more likely than non-disabled to be economically inactive.
“Fully 3.3 million disabled people are not looking for work and that number isn’t falling, it’s slowly increasing.
“Some of those people will be unable to work, but a significant proportion will have some capability to work with appropriate adjustments, but have learned through grim experience that the jobs market is unwilling to consider us.
“This is a lesson reinforced every time we see a disabled person forced out of work because an employer has no respect for our rights, and Disability Confident simply isn’t challenging our confidence in the truth of that lesson.”
DWP has so far been unable to say how many of the 8,763 jobs that were pledged by Disability Confident members resulted in paid jobs for disabled people.
Asked why the Disability Confident scheme appeared to be so unsuccessful – and getting worse – at persuading employers to provide new jobs for disabled people, and whether the figures showed the scheme was “trivially easy to abuse”, a DWP spokesperson said: “Disability Confident is a business-led scheme designed to support businesses of all sizes to recruit, support and retain disabled workers.
“We are constantly reviewing and strengthening the process, and we’ve made great progress, with two-thirds of large employers surveyed having employed a disabled person as a result of joining the scheme.
“There are now 1.15 million more disabled people in work compared to six years ago, but there is always more that can be done.
“We hope to continue to increase sign ups and ensure that all businesses can reap the rewards of employing disabled people.”
The DWP spokesperson has so far been unable to provide any detailed figures relating to the “two-thirds of large employers” who he said had employed a disabled person as a result of joining the scheme.
*The freedom of information response failed to provide figures for how many apprenticeships have been promised by employers
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