Disabled people who have been unemployed for longer than twelve months see their prospects of returning to work diminish twice as quickly than able-bodied people, according to a new report from the left-leaning Resolution Foundation.
Analysis by the think tank shows that 16% of disabled people who have been in employment in the last year successfully return to work within three months, but this plummets to just 2.4% among those who have been out of work for longer than twelve months.
The chances of an unemployed person finding a job reduces the longer they’re not in work, but this is particularly evident among people with disabilities. A disabled person’s chances of returning to work following a bout of long-term unemployment is more than six-times lower than in the first year of unemployment, the report says.
Resolution Foundation says “this ‘time out’ penalty is more than twice the size of that for non-disabled people, who are only three times less likely to re-enter employment after a year out of work than in the first year after exiting”.
The report is published ahead of the Government’s Green Paper on disability employment, which is believed to include measures to help halve the disability employment gap – the difference between the number of disabled and non-disabled people in work – including a new ‘Health and Work Programme’ to replace the widely criticised Work Programme.
However, the Resolution Foundation’s estimates suggest that this new scheme will only support up to 20,000 disabled people into work each year. In a press release published on their website, Resolution Foundation adds:
“This approach alone will [only] make [a] very little dent in the government’s ambition to halve the disability employment gap, which the Foundation estimates will require a 1.5 million increase in the number of disabled people in work by 2020.”
The report calls on the Government to consider a radical new “damage prevention” approach to supporting disabled workers, which would see a greater level of support provided in the workplace to help limit the numbers of disabled people leaving employment.
Laura Gardiner, Senior Policy Analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Helping people with health problems or a disability to enter and remain in work is a major concern in an ageing society, and the key challenge to overcome if we are to achieve the Chancellor’s goal of full employment.
“The current focus on supporting people after they have been assessed for benefits is misguided, with help arriving too late and on too small a scale for the millions of people who need it.
“A ‘prevention is better than cure’ approach that improves support and incentives in the workplace and during periods of sickness absence should be at the centre of the government’s forthcoming Green Paper on boosting disability employment.
“Such an approach would mean fewer workers have to experience the stress of being out of work, employers see a reduction in their staff turnover and the government can make faster progress in its laudable ambition to halve the disability employment gap.”
Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Owen Smith MP, said the report provides further evidence “the Tories are failing disabled people”, and promised to raise the issue in Parliament.
Owen Smith said: “This report shows they are making no real inroads to helping disabled people access better job opportunities and wages, in a bid to make up for the £24bn losses they have introduced since 2010.
“Labour will call the Tories to account on this, which is why we will be using the next opposition day debate on 8 June to stand up for disabled people and demand the Tories come before parliament to explain why they are failing to keep their promise to cut the gap in employment opportunities for disabled people.”