Since January, Disability Wales has been consulting on the DWP’s Green Paper. Many of you attended the North and South Wales forums, and over a hundred people completed our survey. We also met with other organisations representing disabled people, as well as the DWP itself. Consequently, we have compiled a thorough, insightful report filled with your responses, and here are some of the most important points.
Disability and Employment Can’t Be Separated From Other Factors.
The Green Paper uses the medical model of disability. This suggests that a disabled person’s employment is more of a personal well-being issue, and by doing that, all the other factors that keep disabled people out of a job are sidestepped. Yet someone might need accessible, affordable housing to find work, which is not readily available in a particular area, they wouldn’t be able to take up a post. Accessible transport, income security, education and skills training, in addition to leisure and community services all effect a disabled person’s ability to access employment opportunities.
The System and How to Access Support is Unclear.
Signposting to different services and schemes could be a lot clearer. Disabled people need to know exactly what support is available to them, and what the different categories mean. A few respondents to our survey thought that the Access to Work scheme had actually ended.
More Flexible Work Options are Needed.
This was the most cited issue. You called for more flexible application processes; making distinctions between sick and disability related absence; the ability to work from home; and flexibility in work plans, tasks and hours.
Employers Need Guidance.
Clearly a cultural change is needed from businesses. They need to know what support is available for them to employ disabled people, and how inclusive practices benefit companies. Employers need to learn the value of disabled workers. In fact, one employer chose to give a disabled employee early retirement rather than use the Access to Work for scheme to keep them in their job.
Fast Access to Mental Health Support and Healthcare.
Mental health and musculoskeletal conditions are the top causes of needing time off sick. The stress of illness, exclusion and insecurity as well as the anxiety of dealing with the welfare system, frequently damages people’s mental health. It is vital that the right support is available quickly to prevent conditions from escalating.
Unstable income, sanctions, and delays can turn people’s worlds upside down. It can prevent recovery, and it marginalises those effected. If a decision is taken to remove ESA, having a transition period would give much needed time for appeals or for people to apply for other benefits. One person noted how they had to wait 5 months for their work capability assessment. They had to fall back on funds left by their recently deceased mother, and the stress took a toll on their health.
Society’s Attitudes Need to Change.
From Government to employers the attitudes towards disabled people need to change. The skills and perspectives of disabled people should be valued and demanded, instead of being dismissed. One survey respondent noted how her MS meant that she needed a stick for walking, and felt that it didn’t stop her doing useful things in her role as Sister of a paediatric outpatient department. Yet she was still made redundant.
Improving Social Care with a Focus on Independent Living.
Access to Independent Living with the appropriate support would empower disabled people. It also provides support for carers, enabling everyone to have the opportunity to seek employment.
More on What Would Really Solve the Disability Employment Gap.
You can download our full report here.
It contains case studies from claimants, as well as more suggestions that are likelier to get disabled people working. It is essential reading for politicians and activists.
Our response to the DWP was submitted on Friday 17th February 2017. They will read the responses that you have put together, and we expect them to reformulate their plans in their white paper. The timescale for this happening is uncertain.
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