The government is “years behind schedule” in delivering its manifesto commitment to halve the employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people by 2020, according to new analysis.
Ministers have pledged to reach this milestone – which would mean having 63% of disabled people in work – by the end of the decade. However, TUC analysis shows that at current rates of progress it will take until 2030 to achieve this target.
The findings forecast that by 2020 52% of disabled people will be in work – 11% less than the government promised. The analysis also reveals that disabled people who do find employment still face a significant wage gap. Full-time disabled workers earned 13% (£75 a week) less than full-time non-disabled people in 2015. And disabled people working part-time earned 14% (£30 a week) less than part-time non-disabled workers.
Attempts to get more disabled people in to work have been undermined by government cuts, according to the TUC. As well as cutting Employment Support Allowance for disabled people, ministers have scaled back programmes like Access to Work, which provides grants for disabled people to pay for support workers and equipment to help them find lasting employment.
The TUC also believes that far more needs to be done to tackle employer prejudice towards disabled workers. Research published by Scope shows that 74% of disabled adults feel they have lost out on a job opportunity because of their impairment or health condition.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The government is years behind schedule in achieving its employment target for disabled people.
“While ministers are right to prioritise getting more disabled people into work, they are going about things the wrong way. Cutting vital benefits and employment programmes will succeed only in locking disabled people out of the workplace.
“Unless we do more to break down the barriers disabled people face, applying for jobs and staying in work then progress will remain painfully slow.”
Dan Scorer, head of policy at learning disability charity Mencap, agreed: “The government made an important public commitment at the last election to halve the employment gap experience by disabled people, yet there’s been no plan how they will do this. Instead, as this report from the TUC suggests, added barriers have been created in the form of cuts to Employment and Support Allowance which will push disabled people further from work and in to poverty.
“Currently just 2 out of 10 people with a learning disability have a job, despite the fact 8 out of 10 working age people with a mild or moderate learning disability could work if they had the right support. The government now needs to outline how it plans to address the core issues that result in such low employment figures. These include the barriers employers perceive in taking on disabled employees, the in-effective Government Work Programme, Jobcentre advisors that don’t have adequate training on learning disability and vital support being taken away by cuts to benefits and social care.”
“At a time when people with a learning disability have experienced severe cuts to benefits and social care, it’s crucial the government explains how it will achieve its welcome aim of getting 1 million more disabled people into work this Parliament.”