Disabled people in Britain are getting a raw deal compared to their counterparts across Europe, according to a new European Parliament report released today (Thursday 20 November).
Labour’s Richard Howitt MEP told Parliament’s Employment and Social Affairs Committee, who commissioned the report, that the findings demonstrated that cuts to the “Access to Work” scheme in Britain were counterproductive, and that the Conservative-led Government had halved the number of disabled people benefiting from European-funded job help.
The cost-benefit study recommends increased funding for employment support to disabled people, better design of workplaces and more rigorous enforcement of legal protections.
Richard Howitt MEP who is Vice-Chair of the European Parliament’s All Party Disability Rights Group of MEPs told the committee:
“Britain has stood by as disabled people have borne the brunt of the economic crisis, which this report shows leaves disabled people twice as likely to be unemployed and sees our country labelled as “least generous” for disability benefits among rich nations not just in Europe but throughout the OECD.
“The figures show that for each £1 invested in employment support, the British Exchequer receives £1.48 back in more taxes and fewer benefits paid, exposing how counterproductive the cuts to the ‘Access to Work’ scheme for disabled people have been.
“As a Member of the European Parliament who has fought with my Labour colleagues for EU funding, I am dismayed that the study shows that the current Government has allowed the number of disabled people benefiting from EU job help to more than halve, from 35 per cent under the previous Labour Government to just 15 per cent today.
“The report also shows that sadly our warnings about the closure of REMPLOY by the Government have been proven, with just 3 per cent of disabled people who lost support from this and similar schemes being actually successful in finding alternative employment.
“This report makes the economic case for investing in disabled people’s employment but it is the human and social costs of not doing so which the British Government wants us to ignore.”