Employment stats are still heading the wrong way for the disabled

    Employment stats are still heading the wrong way for the disabled

    Over the past year the number of disabled people in employment has dropped; yes it has been a difficult year for all workers across many sectors, but the unemployment rate for disabled employees has increased more than for people who are not disabled.

    The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that just over 52 per cent of disabled people are in employment, down almost two per cent from the previous year while, for the rest, the employment rate dropped just one point to 81 per cent. The proportion of disabled people who are either unemployed or economically inactive has gone up, again more than for people who are not disabled.

    The COVID pandemic has been cruel in many ways, not least the fear of furlough or unemployment but, once again, the disabled have been hit the hardest. The ONS stats tell us that in the period July 2020 to November 2021, when many companies faced their darkest moments, 21 per thousand disabled employees were made redundant while the figure for workers without a disability was at a much lower rate of 13 per 1,000.

    A recent move by the government, with its National Disability Strategy, published by the Department for Work and Pensions in July, seeks to address the disability pay gap… but does it go far enough? A consultation is to report on mandatory transparency rules, including the requirement for large employers to report on disability in the workforce, to ‘build on existing gender reporting requirements and improve inclusive practices’.

    Consultation is all fine unless the words fail to transform into action, and all too often we see the can kicked down the road accompanied by a backdrop noise of platitudes; but the hope is that once disability data is published, then the introduction of pay gap reporting can follow swiftly. There is a long way to go though, as the DWP’s own UK Disability Survey showed all too clearly. Of 14,000 respondents, 56 per cent of disabled people who were not employed said they needed more help to find a job, while only 48 per cent of the employed said their employer made reasonable adjustments for disabled people, and only a quarter thought they had comparable promotion prospects to their colleagues.

    TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady, said: “disabled people are far less likely to be in paid employment, and when they are, they are hit by a 20 per cent pay gap, which is growing year on year.”

    We want to see action not words, and change for the better.

    Disabled people let down by the housing sector too

    One of the biggest threats to the wellbeing of disabled people is the appalling lack of suitable housing, with a recent study suggesting that less than 10 per cent of the UK housing stock is appropriately accessible. Which other sector of society has so little choice or opportunity?

    Small doorways, insufficient turning spaces and inaccessible bathroom facilities are a depressingly common feature of private and social housing; and it’s easier to get things right at the outset than try to upgrade or modernise later. Let’s hope the UK’s drive to increase the social housing stock doesn’t make the same mistake of previous pushes to ‘stack them high and sell them cheap.’

    Disabled people face more physical and mental challenges to achieve an acceptable standard of living than any other sector from day to day, so what kind of a society will pay them less and make it harder for them to access decent housing?

    A society which needs to change.


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