The Work and Pensions Committee has launched an inquiry into the Government’s commitment to halve the “disability employment gap” – the difference between the number of disabled and non-disabled people in employment.
MPs from the cross-party committee will assess the challenges and effectiveness of the Government’s employment support programmes and social security policies in ‘supporting’ disabled people into work.
According to the latest available data, 46.7% of disabled people were in work at the end of 2015 compared to 80.3% of non-disabled people. In order to close this gap, the committee says an extra 1.2 million disabled people would need to be supported into work.
The committee’s ‘welfare to work’ report, published in October 2015, expressed concerns about the lack of success of existing employment programmes, such as the Work Programme, in supporting disabled people into sustained employment.
Concerns have also been raised about the abolition of the Work Related Activity component of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), and how this may affect disabled people’s ability to overcome barriers to employment.
Chancellor George Osborne was recently forced to abandon plans to reform Personal Independence Payment (PIP), a proposal which led to the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith as Work and Pensions Secretary.
The aim of the inquiry is to investigate and propose improvements into employment programmes for disabled people, support for employers to recruit people with disabilities, and disabled people’s access to the labour market.
The committee is inviting written submissions to the inquiry, asking:
- To what extent are the current range of proposed measures likely to achieve the Government’s ambition of closing the disability employment gap?
- Should the Government set interim targets along the way to meet the commitment to halve the disability employment gap? What should they be?
- What should support for people with health conditions and disabilities in the proposed Work and Health programme look like, and how should providers be incentivised to succeed?
- How effective is the Disability Confident campaign in reducing barriers to employment and educating employers, and what more can be done to support employers?
- What are the likely impacts on disability employment of the abolition of the Employment and Support Allowance Work Related Activity component?
- What evidence is there that it will promote positive ‘behavioural’ change? What evidence is there that it will have unintended consequences, and how could these be mitigated?
Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee said: “The Government has made a welcome commitment to help more people with disabilities into a position where they can find and then keep a job.
“If it can successfully be seen through, this commitment could signal a major stride towards achieving full employment in our country.
“The really important part now is to back-up this commitment with a series of reforms that are tailored to each person’s own skills and ambitions, as well as those conditions that currently limit their ability to work, so that each person can follow a feasible journey into work.
“We hope the evidence we receive will enable us to help the Government in its search for such a reform package.”