I blogged twice last week on the issue of Access to Work. In my post on Access to Work in general, I noted that the DWP has issued unannounced, updated guidance on Access to Work which reduces the amount of support that was previously available to disabled people in securing employment. Furthermore, this has been done before an announced review of Access to Work has been published.
In my post on the numbers behind Access to Work, I noted that: Access to Work supports disabled people in securing work; it’s not about reasonable adjustments; it is the fourth smallest “benefit” paid by DWP; it acts as a net income generator for the Treasury.
In this post, I just want to pick up on this argument about reasonable adjustments. DWP has made the case that employers should be meeting some access costs as a reasonable adjustment (RA) under their obligations due to disability law.
Though I’ve demonstrated that the RAs defence isn’t a defence – Access to Work is designed to supplement rather than replace any reasonable adjustments – let’s take the view at face value. The question is: has the requirement for employers to meet their RA obligations positively affected employment factors for disabled people?
The answer is no.
Around 50% of disabled people are employed, compared to 79% of non-disabled adults (EHRC Triennial Review, p.396). This employment gap has remained virtually unchanged for several years.Indeed, the EHRC’s Triennial Review showed that disability affects work status more than gender or lone parenthood (EHRC Triennial Review, p.396).
When disabled people are employed, they are significantly more likely than non-disabled people to work part-time. In 2009, 33% of disabled people were in full-time employment compared to 60% of non-disabled people. Furthermore, disabled people are also more likely to be employed in elementary occupations (18% in totaly) compared to non-disabled people (at 11%) (from the “Experiences and Expectations of Disabled People”, ODI, p.100).
More qualitatively, persistent barriers for accessing work for disabled people – as reported by disabled people themselves – include the negative attitudes of employers about productivity, the “risk” of employing disabled people and inaccessible transport.
Clearly, reasonable adjustments have not created the shift in accessing employment needed to close the persistent employment gap faced by disabled people. Within this picture, Access to Work is a practical, cost-effective scheme that addresses such issues, beyond the letter of disability law and reasonable adjustments, that provides support to disabled people for employment purposes.
The government would do well to understand this.