The long-awaited Government green paper Improving Lives, launched on Monday. The Green Paper sets out the Government's proposals for how to support more disabled people into work. It focuses on how to increase support for disabled people to enter employment, improve work-related benefit assessments, and better support employers to employ more disabled people. This is a much needed effort given that under half (48%) of disabled people are in employment compared to 80% of non-disabled people. This gap is even broader for people that Sense support with more complex needs, including deafblindness - just 20% of working aged people who are deafblind are in employment, and just 4% of people who are deafblind and aged between 18 and 24 are employed.
The paper is a welcome publication and seeks a collaborative approach, including with the charity and voluntary sector, to develop changes to the current disability employment landscape. While some disabled people are not able to work, many would like to be in employment but come up against a number of barriers. We're pleased to see that the Government is attempting to understand how best to support all disabled people, including those with complex needs, to fulfil their aspirations. However, outstanding questions still remain about how the Government will fully support all disabled people to fulfil their aspirations, including those with complex needs. Sense will work with the Government to answer these questions:
- What measures will the Government take to make sure Access to Work adequately supports people with more complex needs?
- How will the Government ensure they are sufficiently engaging with voluntary partners to capture specialist knowledge for all disabilities?
- Given the person-centred approach of the Green Paper, will the Government consider reversing the damaging cuts to ESA?
- With welcome initiatives proposed such as abolishing ESA reassessments, will the Government extend this reduction in bureaucracy to related benefits, such as Personal Independent Payments (PIP)?
- What cross-learnings, including health assessment outcomes, will be taken from benefits such as PIP and applied to ESA?
Some of these areas were key concerns raised in Sense's recent research into employment experiences, detailed in our report Realising Aspirations for All. We found that existing support programmes such as Access to Work and employment support providers like Jobcentre Plus often fail to provide the right level and type of support. These experiences often lead to dispiriting outcomes at best, and at worst they actively prevent people from receiving the correct support and advice for their needs.
The impact of the correct support and guidance for disabled people to access work can make the world of difference. For Bethany, a young person who is deafblind and spoke to us about her employment experiences, receiving support meant she could go from struggling to find employment, to growing in confidence and working towards starting her own business. The current consultation from Government provides an important opportunity to work toward enabling disabled people who want to work to fulfil their ambitions and take up a range of interesting and challenging roles, as so many people do.
How can your voice be heard?
You can respond to the Government consultation via their website.
Alternatively, you can email email@example.com or send in a response by post:
The Work, Health and Disability Consultation,
Ground Floor, Caxton House,
6-12 Tothill Street,
Sense would also like to hear from you if you are happy to share your experiences. We are particularly interested in hearing about your experiences with the Work Capability Assessment, Employment and Support Allowance, Access to Work, Jobcentre Plus and contact with employers.
If you would like to be involved, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also telephone: 0300 330 925