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DISABLED people should be supported to work in any role in any sector, rather than in segregated employment, says a new review.

The Government’s Access to Work scheme, which provides financial help for support workers, interpreters, equipment and other practical support to enable disabled people to keep and get jobs, should also be available for twice the current numbers of people.

The review on employment services for disabled people by RADAR Chief Executive Liz Sayce, recommends raising the overall numbers securing specialist disability support to 100,000 within existing resources, with further expansion longer-term.

Liz Sayce said: “The work aspirations of disabled people have changed. Again and again disabled people – especially young disabled people – said they wanted the same choice of jobs as everyone else in every sector from hairdressing to engineering, from apprenticeships to work experience, from self employment to co-ops and employee to director.

“That is why I am recommending empowering disabled people and employers by opening up Access to Work, widening access to information and peer support and ensuring support can go with the individual, from job to job, equipping disabled people for the economy of today and tomorrow.

“Young people do not expect a job for life – so we need to design support that can go with the individual, from job to job.

“There was also a total consensus among disabled people’s organisations and charities that segregated employment is not a model for the 21st century. Instead in-work support like Access to Work is the right way to support disabled people so that those acquiring disability can keep their jobs – and those entering work can work in any sector they choose.

“We have good evidence and examples of ‘what works’ for people facing the greatest barriers: work experience in regular workplaces and flexible support for both employee and employer. Putting this in place will support disabled people’s independence and sense of identity and help close the employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people. This would boost the economy by £13bn.”

Minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller who commissioned the report, said: “This review is about spending money differently, not cutting it. The amount of money going into employment services for disabled people is already being protected.

“Disabled people are part of mainstream society and that means being part of the mainstream workplace.

“It is vital that Government departments work together to realise the aspirations of disabled people and to support them to achieve those aspirations.

“That is why I am announcing that the Government has accepted the recommendation that a cross Government ministerial group should drive forward a strategy for disabled people’s employment.

“The report makes a number of other detailed recommendations on how we might better use the resource available to Government in supporting disabled people into and in work.

“We will be considering all the recommendations and will respond in due course.

“Government intends to consult on these before moving to any decisions.”

What the top charities say:

Paul Farmer, chief executive at the mental health charity Mind, said:

“We welcome this review and in particular the recommendation to make Access to Work more widely available. People with mental health problems are often excluded from traditional disability support systems, despite having one of the highest want to work rates of any disability group. Currently, only one per cent of the budget is spent on people with mental health problems, denying many people access to a valuable resource which could support them on their journey to gain and retain employment.”

Dr Rachel Perkins, Chair of Equality 2025, said:

“The system that has grown up historically is not equitable. It does little for people most likely to be out of work – people with mental health conditions, learning disabilities or autistic spectrum disorders – and it serves far more men than women. We need a system that supports individuals to get any job we choose: after all who wants to pack boxes just because you are disabled?”

Mark Goldring CBE, chief executive of Mencap, said:

“We can do much more to help people with disabilities into work in a way that directly benefits them and the wider society. Less than 10% of people with a learning disability are currently employed but we know that most want to. With modest help it is possible for many more people to work in open employment alongside their non disabled colleagues. This is the way that policy and practice should take us.”

Existing employment support for disabled people:

  • 37,300 disabled people benefit from Access to Work at a cost of £98 million (average annual spend per person around £2,600).
  • 2,800 disabled people are employed in Remploy factories at a cost of £63 million (around £25,000 a year is spent on each disabled employee in a Remploy factory).
  • Around a third of the entire budget for specialist disability employment programmes is spent supporting disabled people in Remploy factories.
  • 840 disabled people go to a Residential Training College. Only 230 disabled people secured work through Residential Training Colleges last year for an average cost of £78,000 per person.
  • Over 80% of disabled people in Residential Training Colleges, and around 75% of disabled employees in Remploy factories are men.
  • Overall, the available funding for specialist disability employment support helps around 65,000 disabled people each year.
  • A key finding of the review is that there is potential to significantly increase the number of people who can be helped so that the same level of funding could help nearly 100,000 people.