Should I give up?

I’ve been working in the disability field for over 20 years ( but a recent study shows that nothing has substantially changed!

The excellent and very thorough research undertaken by University College London here reveals that the employment prospects of disabled people are not getting any better.  Even today in 2022, some 48,000 people are being “managed out” of the workforce due to their health conditions/ disabilities.  No wonder there is a tight labour market with fewer people looking for jobs and employers scrabbling to find workers. Clearly, this study is the product of considerable thought, extensive research and highly effective interviews.

There are other areas that the study couldn’t tackle: how the health sector disables people through long delays in treatment and, possibly, how the education sector doesn’t enable disabled pupils/ students to achieve their potential plus, with the high proportions of disabled people moving into self-employment/ business start-up, there remains a paucity of adequate support for these entrepreneurs. But, of course, with far-reaching research such as this, one has to draw the line somewhere!

My whole approach to disability is that one has to change attitudes (of Government Departments, of employers, line managers, colleagues etc plus the disabled workers) before addressing reasonable adjustments (communications, work environment etc) underpinned by the structure of policies, practices and procedures. The study offers some sound solutions.

However, we still need to be far more persuasive. To succeed, one needs to consider what will change attitudes and behaviour. My experience is that asking employers and all the other structures to do better on the basis of “good conscience”, legal compliance etc is never going to be successful.   One only has to consider the Grenfell fire to realise that Health and Safety, fire legislation, risk to life and more held little sway in the face of financial incentives. One needs a better carrot when the stick doesn’t work.

Hence finances may be the key factor in changing attitudes – at least at the start. I’m thinking of the direct and indirect costs of disabled people being unemployed (benefits, more demand on the NHS, lost tax revenue, more pension credits etc), loss to GDP, cost to employers (reputational, medical retirements, cost of recruitment and training to replace “managed out” employees and more) off set by the cost of reasonable adjustments (minimal), ATW (how much per head of working disabled people?), tax income, and much more. I think that, without some hard and well-evidenced financial figures, we will continue to beat our heads against brick walls.

And, once we have that financial evidence, it needs to be deployed in a way that will influence the key decision-makers in both Government and businesses (a side of A4). I’m also sure that there are more vital figures to convince others pan-society that ignoring potentially 20% of the workforce is having a massive detrimental impact on the viability of the economy, GDP and society.

© 2024 - Penny Melville-Brown
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