The Government’s new ‘Work and Health Programme’ will help 45,000 fewer disabled people each year to find work or remain in employment than the schemes it’s replacing, according to a damning new study published today.
The study ‘More than Words: Rethinking employment support for disabled jobseekers’, published by the Employment Related Service Association (ERSA), exposes the the gap between government rhetoric and reality in terms of support for jobseekers with disabilities and health conditions.
Published ahead of the Government’s ‘Work and Health Green Paper’, the report questions the Tories’ commitment to halve the disability employment gap, highlighting how an additional 1.2 million more people with disabilities would need to enter work to realise the ambition.
With the Government’s flagship employment programmes – Work Programme and Work Choice – ending next year, the replacement Work and Health Programme will support far fewer disabled people.
Funding for contracted employment services will be slashed from £750 million in 2013/14 to less than £130 million next year, meaning the number of disabled people who receive support will be almost halved, from 300,000 in 2012-2015 to just 160,000 from 2017 to 2020.
The changes mean only one in eight disabled people who want to work will receive the help they need; the equivalent of 45,000 fewer disabled people each year over the remainder of this parliament.
[contextly_sidebar id=”PIRPiCA1GjMhqFeQ7oCE1vLSaWXN9fzv”]ERSA say the Government’s decision to slash contracted employment support services “makes no business sense”, adding: “doubling the size of the Work and Health Programme would not only give an extra 160,000 disabled people access to specialist employment support, but would also mean wider savings of £280 million to the Chancellor in his upcoming Autumn Statement”.
ERSA also warn that if funding from the European Social Fund is not fully replaced beyond 2020 – worth over £500 million a year – the damage to employment programmmes could be even worse.
Kirsty Mchugh, Chief Executive of ERSA, said: “Today’s report shines a critical light on the government’s ambition to halve the disability employment gap. It shows that, under current plans, 45,000 fewer disabled people will access contracted employment support for each remaining year of this Parliament.
“The size of the new Work and Health Programme means only one in eight disabled people who want to work will have specialist help to do so. As a society, we have an obligation to ensure that appropriate support is available and today’s report shows that we are in danger of failing disabled people and their families.
“We know that good quality frontline provision can provide help to more disabled jobseekers, but only if it is given the funding to do so. Turning the government’s plans into more than words would be good for businesses, communities, disabled people and the economy – let’s make sure it happens.”
Matthew Oakley, Director of WPI Economics, who conducted the study, said: “If the government is serious about its ambitions on disability employment, it needs to take bold action now.
“A vital first step should be to reverse decisions made by the previous Chancellor and double the number of disabled people with access to specialist employment support in this Parliament.
“Although this will not alone halve the disability employment gap, it will send a clear signal of the government’s intent and could lead to 30,000 more disabled people in work and net benefits to the Exchequer of £280 million.
“But ultimately, we need to be clear that this is not just about saving money. It is about supporting more disabled people who want to work to achieve that ambition, because it’s the right thing to do.”
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This article was last updated at 01:52 on Tuesday 25 October 2016.