More than a third of employers who signed up to the government’s discredited disability employment scheme failed to employ a single disabled person after they joined, according to a report commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
The report found that only 63 per cent of all employers who joined Disability Confident had recruited a disabled employee after joining the scheme, although this was an improvement on just 49 per cent in 2018.
Nearly a fifth (19 per cent) of employers with at least 250 employees did not recruit any disabled people after joining the scheme, according to a survey of more than 1,200 members of Disability Confident carried out on DWP’s behalf by Ipsos.
DWP declined to say yesterday (Wednesday) why the Ipsos report, which was completed in May 2022, was not published until this week, 16 months later.
Disability Confident has faced repeated criticism since its launch in 2013, particularly over concerns that the scheme is “trivially easy to abuse” and allows employers at the first two of its three levels to describe themselves as “disability confident” without being assessed by an outside organisation, and without employing a single disabled person.
The disabled Labour MP Marsha de Cordova (pictured) said yesterday: “The findings from the Tory government’s Disability Confident scheme survey confirms what I’ve been saying for years: the scheme lacks accountability, transparency, and performance measures.
“That nearly a fifth of large employers who joined the scheme did not report recruiting a single disabled person, further demonstrates the scheme’s lack of impact and credibility.
“It’s time for the government to scrap it and replace it with a scheme that is fit for purpose. The government needs to stop failing disabled people.”
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 in 2016.
In July 2020, a company that bragged of being a Disability Confident leader sacked more than 50 disabled staff when it fell into administration, and then hired mostly non-disabled agency staff to replace them.
And in October 2018, the government-funded British Council, which is responsible for promoting the UK’s culture and education abroad, asked an employment tribunal to allow it to dodge its Equality Act duty not to discriminate against disabled people, despite being a member of Disability Confident.
The new survey also shows that satisfaction with the information and support provided through the scheme has declined since the last survey was carried out in 2018.
Only 55 per cent of members said they were satisfied with the information offered through the scheme, compared with 69 per cent in 2018.
Satisfaction with the support provided by DWP and its jobcentres was even lower, with just 43 per cent of members satisfied, compared with 56 per cent in 2018.
DWP declined to say if it the report suggested that the scheme lacked accountability, transparency and credible performance measures, and that it needed to be scrapped and replaced.
But a DWP spokesperson said in a statement: “We are committed to improving workplace inclusivity and progress is already being made with more employers hiring at least one employee with a disability or long-term health condition in 2022 compared to 2018.
“But we know there is more to do, which is why we continue to work with stakeholders to develop and grow the Disability Confident scheme to increase the number of inclusive employers in the UK.”
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