So, the Work Programme isn’t, erm, working for people with disabilities, according to latest figures. This again raises questions about whether the Government is doing enough to help people with disabilities – and particularly those with learning disabilities – into employment. The answer appears to be “no”.
Figures published by the Department of Work and Pensions on the Work Programme – designed to get people into sustainable jobs – show that out of 79,000 employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants referred to the programme, only 1,000 (1.3%) have been in work for six months.
How many of that 1.3% were people with learning disabilities is not recorded. However, there probably weren’t a lot, perhaps only 100 or so, if the figure is in line with the number of people with learning disabilities, who have jobs – about 10%.
While this may be a back-of-an-envelope calculation, the truth is that too few people with learning disabilities are finding employment through the Work Programme.
But when Valuing Employment Now, which gave specialist help to people with learning disabilities to find work, was wound down in 2010, the Government line was that they would be fully supported through the Work Programme, and would have additional assistance through Access to Work. It appears this just isn’t happening.
In fairness, the Government has recently committed to expand Access to Work by providing disabled entrepreneurs and small businesses with more support to pay for specialised equipment and meet other costs faced by disabled people.
This is welcome, but more needs to be done, especially in the Work Programme. Mencap estimates that just 1 in 10 of the disabled people who have been assessed as being able to move towards work, with specialist help, are being supported through the Work Programme.
This is a scandalously low figure. While the majority of people with learning disabilities want to work, and can do so, with the right support, most aren’t getting the help they need. That’s hardly in keeping with the Government’s personalisation agenda or supportive of its aim of getting people off benefits like ESA, and into work, is it?
People with learning disabilities often need tailored, individualised support to help them to overcome the barriers they may face in gaining – or returning to – employment.
The Government should urgently review the Work Programme, and amend it to ensure that people with learning disabilities – or any disabilities, for that matter – do get the support they need, whether that be job coaching, the provision of accessible information on prospective jobs, assistance in developing skills, or anything else that could help them get into – and stay in – employment.