The government’s failure to spend enough money on specialist employment support for disabled people is unacceptable, MPs have been told by policy and research experts.
Members of the Commons work and pensions committee were told the government was “not doing enough” to support more disabled people into jobs.
Tony Wilson, director of the Institute for Employment Studies, told the committee yesterday (Wednesday) that the government spent less last year on specialist employment support for disabled people in the whole year than it did on the mainstream COVID-19 furlough scheme in a single week.
Responding to a question from Labour’s Neil Coyle (watch from 14.27 onwards), Wilson said: “This is something where money does talk. We simply don’t spend enough money on specialist employment support for disabled people.
“I don’t think it is acceptable given that disabled people are two-and-half times more likely to be out of work than non-disabled people.”
He said the UK was “among the best performers in Europe and in the world” on mainstream employment support but was “distinctly mid-table on employment for disabled people”.
Sam Avanzo Windett, deputy director of the Learning and Work Institute, said she “completely” agreed with Wilson.
She said it was a concern that the disability employment gap – the difference between the proportion of disabled and non-disabled people in work – had widened during the pandemic.
Avanzo Windett said the government’s Plan for Jobs, created to deal with the economic impact of the pandemic, “was about policies for the majority, not the overlooked groups”, such as disabled people.
And she questioned whether the government’s Work and Health Programme, launched in 2017, was receiving enough funding.
She said that many disabled people were working in the gig economy and in self-employment, both sectors that were under pressure, and were also more at risk of losing jobs to automation than any other group.
She told the committee: “Is the department planning ahead for that, is there enough support into those jobs that are at risk of automation or with self-employment decreasing, are we doing enough planning and support around that?
“I would counter no, at the moment.”
A note from the editor:
Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations.
Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009.
Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…