MPs have called on the government to do more through its new equality bill to monitor how the public sector combats disability discrimination.
The work and pensions select committee said current disability equality schemes were often merely “tick box exercises”, and called for research on their effectiveness.
It also called for councils to use the existing disability equality duty to ensure providers of goods and services comply with the Disability Discrimination Act.
The committee welcomed the new equality bill, which it said would make discrimination law easier to understand. The MPs also welcomed the bill’s new single equality duty, but said the government needed to improve monitoring and enforcement if the duty was to successfully promote equality.
The report, on how disability equality should fit within a single equality act, said the government needed to “refresh its approach” to supporting disabled people into work, particularly those with mental health conditions.
The report said more should be done to ensure employers and disabled people were aware of the access to work scheme, which needed to be more flexible and offer better support for people with mental health and fluctuating conditions.
A pilot scheme to use access to work to support people with mental health problems and fluctuating conditions should be extended, it said.
And it expressed concern at evidence from the Employers’ Forum on Disability (EFD) that 85 per cent of online recruitment sites were inaccessible, calling on the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to conduct more research into the use of inaccessible technology in recruitment, and to take on recruitment discrimination cases.
The report also called on the government to use the new bill to introduce equality tribunals that would address the current complexity and cost of taking county court discrimination cases.
Jonathan Shaw, minister for disabled people, said the government would be responding to the report “in due course”, but said there would be a “resource issue” in setting up equality tribunals and that he believed the current provision was “satisfactory”.
Shaw said the government was awaiting the results of the access to work pilot but that it was “certainly committed to seeing more people with mental health conditions in work”.
He said he was also working with the Federation of Small Businesses to make it easier for disabled people to become self-employed.
The EFD welcomed the committee’s report. Susan Scott-Parker, the forum’s chief executive, backed the idea of equality tribunals, and agreed that the bill was an opportunity for the government to address the “e-discrimination” that prevents many disabled people from applying for jobs online.