Yesterday, the Government published their response to ‘Improving Lives’; a consultation they launched in October 2016. The consultation was about access to employment for disabled people – asking how the current system works, what needs changing and what ideas there might be for improving things in the future. This came alongside a pledge by the government in 2010 to halve the disability employment gap, given that in the UK less than half (48%) of disabled people are in employment compared to 80% of the non-disabled population.
As the Policy Advisor for Welfare and Employment, I have been eagerly awaiting Government’s next steps on this work as Sense responded to the consultation earlier this year. We know that lots of people with complex communication needs do work or want to work but that there are challenges to both finding and staying in work.
Improving Lives: The Future of Work, Health and Disability, the Government’s 10 year plan for getting one million disabled people into employment, has now been published but what does it mean for people with complex communication needs?
- Improving Lives: The Future of Work, Health and Disability, the Government’s 10 year plan for getting one million disabled people into employment, has now been published but what does it mean for people with complex communication needs?
- Employment Support Allowance (ESA) – we are pleased to see that the plan acknowledges that people in the Support Group for ESA (those independently assessed as being the furthest from the jobs market) should be able to access personalised, tailored and practical employment support. Crucially, this is going to be on a voluntary basis as we know that not everybody will be able to work.
- The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) (part of the ESA assessment process) – whilst the Government has acknowledged that the WCA needs reforming, Sense is disappointed that there are still no clear plans as to what this will entail. The government have said that they require further research before taking forward any further reforms of the WCA, however we know that isn’t currently fit for purpose so will be continuing to call for urgent reforms.
- Access to Work (AtW) – we were pleased to see that the Government are considering more innovative and flexible ways that people will be able to use AtW. Our engagement, however, has found that one of the significant barriers that people face when accessing employment is employer understanding about the existence of AtW and how it can support employers and employees. We will therefore be continuing to encourage wider promotion and understanding of the programme.
- Support for transition from education to employment – at Sense we know that transition for children into adulthood can be a complex time where there are lots of considerations to be made. Employment should be a key part of this, and as such we are pleased to see this acknowledged in the plan published yesterday. We will continue to monitor this and make sure that it works for young people with complex communication needs. You can get more information on our transitions service and request a copy of our ‘Getting a result’ pack by visiting Sense’s website.
Overall, Sense welcomes the Government’s ambition to support more disabled people into work, but this needs to be meaningful, aspirational and ultimately meet the needs of people with complex communication needs, whilst continuing to offer financial security to people who are unable to work. For this to happen, the Government must continue to engage with disabled people, voluntary sector organisations and others to ensure that the systems they develop meet the needs of the people who use them.
We will be continuing to work with people with complex communication needs, other organisations and the Government to monitor the development and implementation of the plan they have laid out.
For more information on our Policy and Campaigns work, including our Equal Aspirations for All Report and toolkits for employers and healthcare staff, visit https://www.sense.org.uk/support-us/campaign/employment