19th December 2017 • Emma Cooper
Ambitious plans aimed a getting more disabled people into work over the next ten years have been set out by the Government.
Improving Lives: the Future of Work, Health and Disability sets out how the Government will work with employers, charities, healthcare providers and local authorities to break down employment barriers for disabled people and people with health conditions over the next 10 years. This will be delivered through in-work programmes, personalised financial and employment support, and specialist healthcare services to help more people go as far as their talents will take them.
The Government is committed to not only getting people into work, but also helping them to remain and progress so they can reap the rewards of having a job.
The Government announced its plans in response to its Work, Health and Disability Green Paper consultation which closed earlier in 2017 and received around 6,000 responses from stakeholders and the public.
Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke said, ‘Everyone should be able to go as far as their talents can take them, but for too long disabled people and people with health conditions have been held back from getting on in work.
‘We’ve set out an ambitious 10-year strategy to end this injustice once and for all. By bringing employers, the welfare system and health services together we’re taking significant steps to ensure everyone can reach their potential.’
Two new employment trials will also be launched in the West Midlands and Sheffield City Region combined authorities to provide employment support. The Government is also investing around £39m to more than double the number of employment advisers in improving access to psychological therapies services.
Mental health and employment
Meanwhile, all 40 recommendations of the recent Stevenson/Farmer Review of mental health and employers are to be taken forward by the Government. This includes establishing a framework for large employers to voluntarily report on mental health and disability within their organisations. Employers are a central part of plans, and encouragingly over 5,000 companies of all sizes have now signed up to the Disability Confident scheme to promote disability inclusion.
Fit for work
The Government also announced the next steps for the Fit for Work service. Its assessment services will come to an end in England and Wales on 31st March 2018 and 31st May 2018 in Scotland, following low referral rates.
Employers, employees and GPs will continue to be able to use the same Fit for Work helpline, website and web chat, which offer general health and work advice as well as support on sickness absence.
An Expert Working Group on Occupational Health has been appointed to champion, shape and drive a programme of work to take an in-depth look at the sector.
Other work to support people with disabilities into employment
In the last year, the Government has taken decisive steps to support people with disabilities and health conditions, including:
- Introduced the Personal Support Package, which includes £330m of funding over four years.
- Ending re-assessments for claimants with the most severe lifelong disabilities, illnesses or health conditions on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit.
- Recruiting hundreds of additional Disability Employment Advisers and new Community Partners to bring specialist advice and support into the jobcentres.
- Introducing a new Health and Work Conversation between people on ESA and their work coach, focusing on what they can do rather than what they cannot.
- Launching the Disability Confident Business Leaders Group, which helps to drive continued employer engagement through effective leadership and peer-to-peer support.
- A trial voluntary work experience programme for young people with limited capability for work. This will enable young people to benefit from time in the workplace with a mainstream employer to build their confidence and skills, enhance their CV and demonstrate their ability to perform a job role.
- Extending Journey to Employment job clubs to 71 Jobcentre Plus areas with the highest number of people receiving ESA.