The independent think-tank, Resolution Foundation, has revealed that people with disabilities who have been out of work for over a year will see their odds of returning to the workforce reduced at an approximate twice the rate of non-disabled people.
The organisation’s report argues that current policy, focusing on the benefits distributed to disabled people is ‘seriously misguided’ and the assessment process analysing those who request disability benefits after leaving employment can take between nine months and one year – six months after receipt of Statutory Sick Pay and at least three months spent waiting for an assessment after making an ‘Employment and Support Allowance’ claim. With this in mind, the Foundation has said that the chance of disabled workers re-entering employment has substantially decreased, although the government has made clear its commitment to improving employment outcomes for disabled people. This includes rises in ‘real-terms’ spending in this parliament, and a high emphasis on the health-focused back-to-work programme, the ‘Work and Health Programme’, set to replace the current ‘Work Programme‘ sometime next year.
Co-author of the report and senior policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, Laura Gardiner, said: “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.”
Furthermore, the organisation pinpoints the potential of the new ‘Fit for Work’ service – a government initiative introduced last year – which provides a rehabilitation and occupational health service for employees on sick leave. Despite this positive move, the report has also drawn attention to the tight restrictions on entry routes and low referrals could be hampering the service’s chances of succeeding. Therefore, Gardiner and the other author of the report, Declan Gaffney, suggests that the service is also available to those who are self-employed; that, instead of employers and GPs, that employees are allowed to initiate engagement; and that incentives for both firms and employees to engage with Fit for Work are introduced.
Download the full report here