Select Committee on Work and Pensions Third Report


7   MOVING INTO SUSTAINABLE EMPLOYMENT

312. The aim of moving one million people from incapacity benefits and into employment is a positive step, but much will depend upon whether the jobs that people move into are sustained or if they result in a move back onto benefits. The evidence received during the inquiry raised a wide range of issues, such as: a lack of available jobs in some areas; whether disabled people were being placed in suitable jobs; poor attitudes of employers to recruiting disabled staff; low levels of understanding of disability issues among employers; the occurrence of actual discrimination; and appropriate in-work support for disabled people and their employers.

Are there sufficient jobs in the right areas?

313. One pessimistic view on the comparatively low employment rate of disabled people and the Government's aim to get one million more disabled people into work is that there are simply not enough jobs for disabled people to move into. An additional issue is whether or not job vacancies are in the areas where incapacity benefits claimants live. The Government was keen to point out in the Green Paper that the incapacity benefits caseload is a national problem as the South East has more claimants than the North East.[392] However, this is rather a simplistic view as it does not take into account the size of the working-age population in these regions.[393] When these are considered, the regions with the highest number of incapacity benefits claimants are Wales, the North East, North West and Scotland where around 10% of the working-age population are claiming incapacity benefits. This compares with just under 5% in the South East.[394]

314. When asked if he thought there were sufficient jobs for up to one million disabled people to move into Paul Newman, from the Employers' Forum on Disability, pointed to the number of vacancies reported by the Office of National Statistics (ONS).[395] In the quarter to February 2006 there were nearly 618,000 vacancies reported to the ONS vacancy survey, up 16,400 on the previous quarter, but down 29,300 over the year. The ONS also reported that 10,000 new vacancies are placed at Jobcentres every day, with at least as many coming up from other channels.[396] The Shaw Trust said that they had yet to see evidence that local labour markets were unable to find the jobs required to help more incapacity benefits claimants move into work.[397]

315. Christina Beatty and Professor Steve Fothergill at the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) have conducted research on the economic inactivity rates across Britain for a number of years. Their evidence to our inquiry began by pointing out that incapacity benefits claimants are highly concentrated in Britain's older industrial areas, mainly in the North, Scotland and Wales.[398] The five districts with the highest proportion of people claiming incapacity benefits are: Easington, Merthyr Tydfil and Blaenau Gwent, where one in five of the working-age population are claiming incapacity benefits; and Glasgow and Neath Port Talbot, where the claimant rate is one in six of the working-age population. This led the researchers to conclude that the Government's proposed reforms will work differently in different parts of the country, and that therefore the key to reducing the incapacity benefits caseload is through regional economic development.

316. Reed in Partnership also argued that new employment opportunities needed to be created in areas with the highest concentrations of incapacity benefits claimants.[399] In addition, the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) argued that:

    "the better a local labour market performs, the smaller the disadvantage of disabled people. If all localities enjoyed the level of economic buoyancy found in parts of the south east, many economically inactive disabled people would find work with no need for special schemes. In the absence of such buoyancy, employers may require rather more in the way of incentives and support than the green paper implies." [400]

317. In spite of the views outlined above, it is also worth considering evidence submitted from the Greater London Authority (GLA) which said: "Contrary to what is widely believed, London includes some of the areas in the country with the highest rates of Incapacity Benefit receipt for people aged 50 and over."[401] In particular, the boroughs of Hackney, Islington, Newham and Tower Hamlets have some of the highest numbers in the country of people aged over 50 claiming such benefits. The GLA memorandum highlighted key issues that affect the ability of people on incapacity benefits who live in London to move into work. These included: longer travel to work times and distances; fewer opportunities for part-time working; higher costs of living; and less demand for lower-skilled workers.

318. Similar issues were also raised by Dave Simmonds of CESI who said that problems such as these have produced a much lower job entry rate among New Deal for Disabled People (NDDP) participants in London. He argued for a customised programme addressing London-specific issues.[402]

319. The Papworth Trust said that Jobcentre Plus needed to take into account the state of the local labour market.[403] Along with the Local Government Association, they also spoke of the need for local partnerships with employers, regional development agencies and any other relevant local organisations.[404]

320. The Green Paper contains details of plans to pilot 'city strategies' to tackle worklessness and economic inactivity.[405] It is not yet known where these will be.

321. The Committee acknowledges the local and regional differences in the rates of incapacity benefits claimants and recommends that the Government takes further action to help incapacity benefits claimants in areas with a high claimant rate move into work. While we welcome initiatives such as the planned 'city strategy', further effort and clarification of the content of the strategy are needed. We recommend that the Department develop further local strategies to tackle 'pockets' of high incapacity benefits caseloads and to address issues that are specific to an area. The Department should work closely on these issues with, for example, local and central government and the devolved administrations.

Type of jobs

322. Witnesses pointed out that there was a lack of evidence so far from the Pathways evaluation of the types of jobs into which people are moving.[406] The DWP written evidence stated that "the quantitative evaluation will identify the types of jobs obtained by Pathways to Work pilot clients and will investigate sustainability and progression within employment."[407]

323. The DRC were keen to point out that disabled people, particularly those with mental ill health or learning disabilities were often stuck in low-level employment, work preparation or life skills courses. They commented that it should not be assumed that disabled people could only do low level jobs: "what we have to do collectively is lift those expectations. As a society, if we lift our expectations and disabled people lift their expectations, employers will lift expectations, and that is what we are looking for."[408]

324. Rethink argued that there was a need to break down the aggregated off-flow rates in order to see what kinds of jobs people with mental illness moving into employment were taking.[409] Mr Shaun Hallam, Area Service Manager reported that, based on anecdotal experiences, those with mental health conditions were often going into work at levels "maybe 2 or 3 steps" below what they would want.[410] He told us: "There are thousands of people who have had very hard jobs and lost them due to ill health who just cannot get back into the field they are trained and expert in".[411]

Job retention

325. The importance of job retention was frequently raised in the evidence.[412] By the end of August 2005, 11% of incapacity benefits claimants in Pathways areas who had moved into work returned to benefit within six months and a further 3% within 12 months.[413] It is also worth considering data from the NDDP which showed that, between July 2001 and May 2005, nearly 60,000 participants in the NDDP moved into work. Of these, 20% found sustainable full-time jobs and 60% found sustainable part-time jobs. 11% found unsustainable full-time jobs and 4% found unsustainable part-time jobs.[414]

326. Richard Exell, Senior Policy Officer at the TUC, helpfully suggested a five-point plan for job retention and sustainability:

    "One is having your Personal Adviser available for you once you have got your job and being able to intervene quickly when a problem emerges about hanging on to your new job. […] Secondly, they need to deal with personal issues as well as strictly job-related issues. It is very often the personal problems which force people out of jobs. Thirdly, flexible working, especially for older disabled people; we know, for instance, that the ability to combine retirement with staying in part-time work is really helpful. Designing out health and safety problems at work, especially related to stress and musculo-skeletal problems, is a big problem for Incapacity Benefit claimants, so if we could do more on health promotion in the workplace, which is in the Green Paper, it is really useful stuff. A final point, it is an obvious one but it does not get said often enough, more attractive jobs tend to make people want to stay in them longer, so improving work quality will contribute to job sustainability."[415]

327. From an employer's perspective, the Employers' Forum on Disability argued that, to enhance job sustainability, disabled people need to be 'pulled' towards employers rather than 'pushed'. The latter concentrates on individual action on behalf of the disabled person, such as improving motivation and skills, whereas the former is employer-centred and job-focused, ensuring that employers are better equipped to recruit and retain disabled people.[416] In evidence to the Committee, Paul Newman of the Employers' Forum said:

    "If you are doing just the pushing of the individual and equipping of the individual, but you find that there are employer barriers to people entering into employment and if you do not address those barriers, you are pushing people towards a brick wall, and I do not think that is a sensible thing to do."[417]

328. He later added that to promote job sustainability, the initial job match is crucially important.[418]

329. Finally, to enhance job retention, several of those submitting evidence suggested that disabled people in employment should have a statutory right to 'Rehabilitation Leave' to allow them time for rehabilitation and implementation of support packages, along with a guaranteed return to work, either to the same job or an equivalent post.[419] In January 2006, a Ten Minute Rule Bill on Rehabilitation Leave was presented to Parliament. The Bill aimed to ensure that "people who develop a disability during their working lives, or whose existing disability deteriorates, are supported to remain in employment where reasonably practicable." [420]

330. The Government's response to the Pathways to Work consultation in 2003 stated that "the examples of possible adjustments that might be required under the DDA should be adequate to meet the purposes of a period of disability leave."[421] In evidence to the Committee, the Secretary of State indicated little support for the introduction of Rehabilitation Leave:

    "I think we have to be careful about imposing additional cost and burdens on employers in that regard […] but if that emerges from the Green Paper as an issue of concern, again, we would have to carefully reflect on that."[422]

331. We believe that the Government should be more positive about Rehabilitation Leave, and recommend that the Department work with the Department for Trade and Industry, disability organisations and employers' representatives to consider whether Rehabilitation Leave is a useful and appropriate element in reforming Statutory Sick Pay.

THE PROVISION OF IN-WORK SUPPORT

332. The provision and availability of support for incapacity benefits claimants once they move into work was identified as key in promoting job retention. Mark Baker of RNID said that, although there were many reasons why people move in and out of work, the provision of in-work support was important - particularly for his client group.[423] Speaking of RNIB's provision of services on the NDDP programme, Philippa Simkiss of RNIB said that on-going support once people move into work was key, yet NDDP was not providing the funding for it.[424] Andrew Harrop of Age Concern explained this apparent lack of engagement by Jobcentre Plus in providing in-work support as follows:

    "The real challenge facing Jobcentre Plus is that it has not made that cultural shift to being an organisation that helps people with their work issues as opposed to getting a job. […] Personal advisers see themselves as helping people to that first day in work rather than being there to provide longer term support."[425]

333. In Pathways areas, a formal 'In-Work Support' programme is available to clients and includes mentoring, financial advice and occupational health support. By October 2005, only 1,120 people had taken up services provided through In-Work Support.[426] Little evidence was received by the Committee on the formal In-Work Support scheme. The main point raised was the limited period of availability of in-work support.

334. Many suggested that in-work should last beyond six months.[427] For example, Marilyn Howard of the DRC argued that in-work support should be for an unlimited amount of time and should be available to both the employer and the employee.[428]

335. Mind recommended that those with mental health conditions should receive open-ended support, arguing that the reassurance of having that support could play a very significant part in helping someone with mental health problems get back into and stay in work. It also pointed out that DWP was already trialling open-ended in-work support in its Working Neighbourhood pilots.[429] During oral evidence, Ms Natasha Peter, a former incapacity benefit claimant with a mental health condition, told us that without on-going advice and support she could not have continued work: "I would have gone back to square one really."[430]

336. Keith Faulkner, Managing Director of Working Links, said that his organisation often provided in-work support for disabled people for up to 24 months after someone entered work and that they funded this themselves, as most Jobcentre Plus programmes only supported people for 13 weeks.[431] Similar examples were heard during the Committee's visit to the Derbyshire Pathways pilot, where we were told of the value of ongoing in-work support in promoting job sustainability.

337. The provision of in-work support is crucial to encourage job sustainability among incapacity benefits claimants who move into work. The Committee is concerned at the low level of take-up of In-Work Support in current Pathways areas and also the apparent lack of support provided by Incapacity Benefit Personal Advisers (IBPAs) once an incapacity benefits claimant moves into work. The Committee recommends that the Department further develop the in-work support that IBPAs can provide to their clients, extend the provision of in-work support beyond six months, where appropriate, and work to raise awareness of the In-Work service among both advisers and clients.

Access to Work

338. IBPAs can also use the Access to Work (AtW) scheme to provide in-work support for their clients. AtW helps with the extra costs of employing a disabled person and can provide a wide range of support from the costs of employing a support worker, to specialist equipment and additional transport costs. In 2004-05, around 32,000 people received help through AtW at a cost of £59.5m.[432]

339. Written evidence suggested that AtW is widely viewed as beneficial to disabled people moving into work, yet awareness of the scheme - for both employers and disabled people - was identified as being very low.[433] This is perhaps not surprising when looking at the budget for publicising the scheme. In both 2004-05 and 2005-06, £300,000 was allocated for publicising disability services and programmes, including AtW.[434] To illustrate the low levels of awareness, the RNIB cited research which they conducted with employers which found that 74% of employers were unaware of the help they could receive through AtW.[435] TUC went as far as stating, "disabled people have long suspected that there is a deliberate intention to ration the scheme through ignorance." They believed that the Government feared that raising awareness levels might result in a demand for services which they could not meet.[436]

340. It is worth considering the low awareness of AtW alongside information given in a recent parliamentary answer which stated that for every person helped by AtW there is a net benefit to the Exchequer of almost £1,400 and a net benefit to the economy of nearly £3,000.[437] In addition, the National Audit Office (NAO) recently compared the value for money of AtW against other forms of employment support for disabled people including NDDP, Work Preparation, Workstep and Remploy. AtW came out some way ahead of the other programmes. NAO's cost-benefit analysis also assessed the additionality provided by the schemes: that is, the number of people who are in work as a result of the schemes who would not otherwise be so and how long the individual remains in work. This showed that AtW and NDDP were the only two schemes to break even and provide a net benefit to the economy, even if the person stayed in work for less than a year.[438]

341. The Access to Work scheme provides valuable support to those disabled people who know about it. Awareness among disabled people and employers is far too low and the Committee recommends that the Department takes steps to remedy this immediately. The budget for the Access to Work scheme itself should also be increased as a matter of urgency as success of the national rollout of Pathways to Work will suffer if the budget is insufficient.

Employers

342. Evidence received, for example from the Employers' Forum on Disability, RNIB and Leonard Cheshire, argued that the Government had not done enough to engage employers in the strategy to increase the employment rate of disabled people and decrease the incapacity benefits caseload.[439] Criticisms were made that emphasis was being placed on the supply side of the problem with neglect of the demand side. Summarising some of the key issues, RNID stated:

    "Nothing can be done about the employment opportunities for disabled people unless employers are prepared to recruit and retain them […] RNID is disappointed to find that the Green Paper makes little mention of the vital role of employers in this equation. It is a stark fact that many employers will simply not engage disabled people, or those people coming straight from incapacity benefits. If the national rollout of Pathways to Work is successful, work needs to be done to ensure that there is sufficient demand for the skills and experience that disabled people have to offer. There is no sense in increasing the skills base if nothing is done to convince employers to recruit disabled people."[440]

343. Referring to the lack of detail in the Green Paper on engaging employers, UnumProvident said:

    "any successful programme that helps employees back to work must also positively engage with the employer. The Government should consider this interaction as much as is possible; beyond the city-focused strategies."[441]

344. The Green Paper contains little information on how DWP proposes to encourage employers to increase the recruitment of disabled people. The main employer focus rests on the early stages when people first become ill or disabled and are already in work (see Chapter 3 of this report). While developments on the proactive intervention to help with employee retention are welcome, there are a range of issues that are not addressed in the Green Paper.

Cross-government action on workplace health

345. In recent years the Government has taken a number of steps to support employees who develop a long-term health problem while they are in work. In November 2004, the Department of Health produced a White Paper on supporting people to make better choices for their health. The White Paper states:

346. Although this may be true for many ill or disabled people, it is not the case for all. Several pieces of evidence received during the inquiry commented that some people are simply not in a position to consider working in the near, or even the distant, future.[443]

347. A further important step of addressing health in the workplace was taken in October 2004, when the DWP published the 'Framework for Vocational Rehabilitation.' This recognised that, to date, the Government strategy had focused mainly on helping ill or disabled people move into work rather than helping those who are already in employment to keep their jobs when they became ill or disabled. The Framework recommended that initial efforts should concentrate on helping people remain, or to return quickly, to work and that DWP should establish a Vocational Rehabilitation Steering Group and a Standards and Accreditation Working Group.[444]

348. The Government, through the Health and Safety Executive, is also now piloting a new service for small and medium-sized enterprises in England and Wales called Workplace Health Connect. This offers advice on occupational health, safety and returns to work and consists of an advice line with an associated website and a workplace-focused regional problem-solving service with access to specialist help.[445] In Scotland, the development of creating healthy work places is more advanced. The Scottish Executive launched a new organisation in April 2005 called the Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives which will deliver a number of the Executive's health initiatives including Scotland's Health at Work.

349. More recently, in October 2005, a joint document was published by the DWP, the Department for Health and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which aims to "break the link between ill health and inactivity."[446] A partnership has been established between health departments and the HSE to take forward this work, with wider engagement from stakeholders to ensure full involvement of those who have a role to play in promoting the health and well-being of working-age people. We welcome this initiative. There is a vital need for inter-departmental co-operation and we hope that this partnership will work proactively across departments to support workplace health.

THE STRATEGY UNIT REPORT AND THE OFFICE FOR DISABILITY ISSUES

350. Action on engaging employers has been focused elsewhere within Government. As described earlier in Chapter 2, in January 2005, the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit published the report 'Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People'.[447] Amongst other things, the report analysed what needed to be done to improve the support available to employers in recruiting and retaining disabled employees and produced a number of recommendations and actions to be taken forward up to 2008. These included:

a)  The results of the Employer Engagement Project, run by DWP during 2005, should be considered with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and fed into a campaign, to be led by employers, to promote the business benefits of employing disabled people.

b)  DWP, DH and DTI should consider how best to establish a single information point for employers on all aspects of recruiting and retaining disabled employees.

c)  Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) should be provided with practical advice on their legal obligations to disabled people and on recruiting disabled people. Jobcentre Plus should develop partnerships with organisations that SMEs are in regular contact with.

d)  Improving the effectiveness of the current accreditation identifying good employers of disabled people by: reviewing the "two ticks" disability symbol; including the employment of disabled people in the Investors in People accreditation criteria; and developing an employment standard that encourages employers to introduce good employment practice.

e)  As part of their public sector duty, Government departments, agencies and local authorities should take the lead in demonstrating, promoting and reporting on best practice in recruiting and retaining disabled people, with Jobcentre Plus leading as an exemplar employer.

f)  To inform disabled people of the employment services that are available to them DWP, DH and DfES should work with the private and voluntary sector to create a national online directory of employment service providers to disabled people.[448]

351. The Strategy Unit report also recommended establishing an Office for Disability Issues (ODI) to act as a focal point across government to improve outcomes and secure equal opportunities for disabled people and their families.[449] The ODI was officially launched in December 2005 and is led by the DWP's Minister for Disabled People.

352. In evidence to the Committee, Bert Massie, Chairman of the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) welcomed the ODI and said that it would help to place disability at the heart of Government policies when they are at the development stage, rather than as an add-on when it may be too late.[450]

Employer attitudes to disabled people and how to change them

353. An issue widely identified as being at the root of the problem of supporting more incapacity benefits claimants to move into work was that of the attitudes of employers towards disabled people.[451] In evidence to the Committee, Dave Simmonds from CESI said that the in-flow of people onto incapacity benefits was affected by a range of factors but that employer behaviour played a key role.[452] As an example of this, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development cited research which they conducted with a representative sample of 750 employers drawn from all sectors of the economy in 2005. 1 in 3 employers said that they deliberately excluded people with a history of long-term sickness or incapacity when recruiting staff.[453]

354. Many of the organisations representing disabled people who submitted evidence also gave accounts of employers' views of employing disabled people. RNIB cited their research which showed that nine out of ten employers thought that a blind or partially sighted person was either 'difficult' or 'impossible' to employ.[454] In evidence to the Committee, Philippa Simkiss of RNIB added:

    "DWP research shows that 9 out of 10 employers think it is difficult or impossible to employ a blind person and that was when David Blunkett was Minister! So there is a huge issue about persuading employers to take people on, and our experience is that the only way is to get one of our officers through their doors and talk on a one-to-one basis with employers. That is the only thing that works in terms of getting them jobs to keep and that is labour intensive."[455]

355. A further example is that of attitudes towards people with a mental health condition. A DWP Research Report showed that 37% of employers would take on people with mental health conditions as compared to 62% who would take on physically disabled people.[456]

356. It also appears that people who become ill or disabled are aware of the attitudes they may face. Bert Massie, Chairman of the DRC, informed the Committee of research conducted by DRC and MORI which asked non-disabled people if they would tell their employer if they acquired a disability or long-term health problem. 25% said that they would not as they thought they would get the sack.[457] He continued and said that there were two issues around why employers did not recruit more disabled people: ignorance and fear.[458]

357. A similar point was made by Disability Alliance which referred to the perceptions of employers, based on a limited knowledge of disability issues, that recruiting a disabled person was too much of a risk.[459] This may go some way to explaining some of the points above and brings us to the question of how this lack of knowledge can be addressed.

358. The Disability Employment Coalition argued that the Government needed to do more to educate employers on recruiting and retaining disabled people and run public campaigns to promote the abilities of disabled people.[460]

359. Rethink and the Revolving Doors Agency stressed that employers needed information, advice and training about best practice in employing people with mental illness.[461] Rethink believed that employers should be discouraged from asking whether a person had been detained under the Mental Health Act on application forms.[462] It also expressed disappointment that the Green Paper had not considered the issue of stigma in detail, pointing out that successful anti-stigma campaigns were running in Scotland and New Zealand.[463] The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health suggested the Shift programme, a five-year initiative set up to tackle stigma and discrimination against people with mental health problems, as an example of a programme in which investment could be made.[464]

360. Dr Peter Kenway, Director of the New Policy Institute (NPI), pointed out that the Green Paper did not appear to consider the difficulties employers, especially small employers, would face in employing those with fluctuating conditions. He argued, "if one wants to get employers to take people on, then one has got to look at who is risking what and whether there is a role for the state in mitigating those risks."[465]

361. In their written evidence, Rethink referred to the Strategy Unit report citing the first recommendation listed above (para 350) and pointed out that no concrete plans on the issue of promoting the business case of employing disabled people to employers had yet emerged from DWP and DTI.[466] The importance of promoting the positive business case of employing disabled people was also raised by others.[467] When asked how this could be done, Paul Newman, from the Employers' Forum on Disability, pointed out that "People who are unemployed seem to be defined by their disability and people who are employed are defined by the jobs they are doing." Consequently, the main point to get across to employers is defining potential employees in terms of their capability rather than their label of 'incapacity' or 'disabled'. [468]

362. Written evidence from the Employers' Forum set out a three-point strategy that would help employers to become more "disability confident" in recruiting people currently claiming incapacity benefits:

  • disability must be repositioned from an issue to do with "incapacity, doctors, damage and cost" to "the workplace, capability and investment in human potential;"
  • employers, intermediaries and disabled people must become "willing and able" to deliver good job matches; and
  • policy-makers must reposition the employer to become a "valued customer and potential partner".[469]
  • These are all valuable suggestions, however, the NPI sounded a note of caution. They pointed out that changing employers attitudes is bound to take a long time, consequently, large shifts in the employment of disabled people will also take time.[470]

364. Paul Newman from the Employers' Forum went on to talk of the importance of engaging employers and getting them to see beyond a person's disability.[471] This requires intermediaries to make relationships with employers and, when vacancies arise, having a disabled person with suitable skills and who is ready for work. This may be managed via a Jobcentre Plus employee, such as a Disability Employment Adviser, or an independent private or voluntary sector provider, for example, an NDDP job-broker.[472] However, it is also worth noting a point made by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES). Referring to evidence from the evaluation of NDDP, they argued that NDDP job-brokers have:

    "concentrated on the traditional supply-side role of providing support and job-search assistance to disabled clients, rather than proactively engaging with employers to stimulate them to recruit disabled people, and assist them in the process of doing so. The evaluation suggested, moreover, that there was considerable demand among employers for support of this kind."[473]

365. The IES also stated that the development of targeted wage subsidies for employers who recruit incapacity benefits claimants could be considered. International evidence suggests that such financial incentives rate highly in terms of impact, but have rarely been used in this country with the exception of the Job Introduction Scheme.[474] This has been running since 1977 and provides employers with a weekly grant of £75 for the first 6 weeks of employment. The Job Introduction Scheme has just 2,000 participants with an average unit cost of £500 and a programme cost of £0.9m.[475]

366. For the Government to meet its aim of reducing the incapacity benefits caseload by one million there remains much work to do in engaging employers and addressing the poor understanding that many have on disability issues. The Committee acknowledges the valuable recommendations made in the Strategy Unit Report on the Life Chances of Disabled People but is extremely concerned that the Green Paper does not address the issue properly. The evidence we received suggested that progress towards reforming employers' attitudes is wholly inadequate so far. We recommend that the Department urgently address this difficult but vitally important area. We also recommend that the Department utilises Jobcentre Plus, and its service providers, to work more effectively with employers in promoting incapacity benefits claimants as potentially valuable employees. Particular attention needs to be given to changing employers' attitudes towards employing those with mental health conditions. Finally, we recommend that the Department undertakes a review of the Job Introduction Scheme and considers whether further subsidies for employers would be effective.

The Disability Discrimination Act

367. Chapter 2 of this report outlined some of the developments that have taken place in recent years on disability discrimination legislation. The inquiry did not look at issues around disability discrimination in great detail, nonetheless, it is a crucial part of the aim to get more disabled people into work. This section looks at what action could next be taken to address employer discrimination. Much of this section looks at the helpful evidence - both written and oral - that the Committee received from the Disability Rights Commission.

368. Bert Massie, Chairman of the DRC, said: "it is interesting how many people lose their jobs because employers do not consider ways of keeping them in the job." The DRC's written evidence said that many employers were failing to adopt best practice under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) when, had adjustments been made earlier, the employee could have remained in work.[476]

369. A further point made by Bert Massie was that, "Health and safety are often brought out as an excuse for dismissing people."[477] Such instances could instigate a case under the DDA, however, he was keen to point out that the DRC "takes no joy in saying 'We've brought so many prosecutions this year.' It would be far better for us to say 'We haven't needed to bring any prosecutions this year because no-one's discriminating anymore.'"[478]

370. NPI suggested that the comparatively low employment rate of disabled people suggests "that the way the labour market works discriminates against disabled workers."[479] Bert Massie gave us an example:

    "The evidence shows already that if you send two different applications to an employer with similar qualifications, one from someone who is obviously disabled and one from someone who is not, the non-disabled person is more likely to get the interview, so we know the prejudice is out there. […] If you say can we use more stick, we have the stick in the DDA, […] The problem we face is not so much when someone is being dismissed, because then there are all the trails you can follow, the problem we have is when someone does not get the job. How do you prove that person did not get the job for a reason relating to their disability? Occasionally we find an employer who does it so badly we can take a case and win it, but it is much more difficult to use the DDA for job recruitment than on job retention."[480]

371. RNID also criticised the poor performance of the DDA stating:

    "The argument that the Disability Discrimination Act will ensure equality of opportunity is at best specious and is not borne out by the evidence; since its inception there has been no appreciable rise in the employment rate of disabled people."[481]

372. From the employer's point of view of these issues, Paul Newman of the Employers' Forum on Disability gave examples of employers' completely inaccurate impressions of the types of situations that are covered under the DDA. He said that the sad thing was that "wrong information seems to flow so much more easily than good information."[482] Consequently, he argued that it was important to tackle misleading media stories and instead ensure that "good stories" about disabled people in employment got out into the public domain. Bert Massie told the Committee that the DRC had a media team that monitors and rebuts negative and inaccurate information, however, it was very difficult to get publicity for positive news stories about disabled people and employment.[483]

373. Marilyn Howard from the DRC pointed out that public bodies, including Jobcentre Plus, will have to abide by the disability equality duty and promote the equality of opportunity for disabled people by the end of 2006. [484] On this issue, the Green Paper states: "The legislation will ensure greater opportunities for disabled people to work by tackling discrimination in recruitment and employment."[485] Bert Massie argued that, as DWP has the lead on disability issues, it should therefore be performing the best. He commented: "There is a lot right but it is not there yet."[486]

374. The Disability Discrimination Act represents a significant step forward in promoting equal rights for disabled people. However, awareness among employers appears to be limited, and frequently inaccurate, and DWP should work closely with the Disability Rights Commission to improve it. We recommend that the DWP issue guidelines to the whole of the public sector with the purpose of encouraging employers in this sector to employ people with a history of mental illness. We would like also to remind the Department that the new disability equality duty that comes into force in December 2006 places considerable focus on Jobcentre Plus, and the Department as a whole, to lead the way in tackling disability discrimination.


392   DWP, A new deal for welfare: Empowering people to work, Cm 6730, January 2006, p 26 Back

393   Vol 3, Ev 47 Back

394   Vol 3, Ev 21 Back

395   Q 15 Back

396   Office of National Statistics, Labour Market Statistics, 15 March 2006 Back

397   Vol 2, Ev 29 Back

398   Vol 3, Ev 16 Back

399   Vol 3, Ev 46 Back

400   Vol 3, Ev 245 Back

401   Vol 3, Ev 158 Back

402   Qq 106-108 Back

403   Vol 3, Ev 67 Back

404   Vol 3:Ev67; Ev 125 Back

405   DWP, A new deal for welfare: Empowering people to work, Cm 6730, Jan 2006, p 76-78 Back

406   Ev 167, vol 2; Q 234 [Mr Hallam] Back

407   Ev 226, vol 2 Back

408   Q 135 Back

409   Ev 174, vol 2 Back

410   Qq 234-5 Back

411   Q 214 Back

412   Vol 2: Ev 55; Ev 115; Ev202; Ev 133; Vol 3: Ev 38; Ev 89; Ev 127; Qq9, 14, 27, 31, 130, 188, 189 Back

413   HC Deb, 8 Nov 2005, col 378W Back

414   HC Deb, 21 Nov 2005, col1663W Back

415   Q 111 Back

416   Vol 2, Ev 3 Back

417   Q 1 Back

418   Q 27  Back

419   Vol 3: Ev 26, Ev 98, Ev 144 and Vol 2: Ev 141 Back

420   HC Deb 2006, 18 January 2006, col 845 Back

421   DWP, Pathways to Work: Helping People into Employment: The Government's response and action plan, Cm 5830, June 2003, p 19 Back

422   Q 338 Back

423   Q 188 Back

424   Q 188 Back

425   Q 187 Back

426   Blyth B, Incapacity Benefit Reforms - Pathways to Work Pilots performance and analysis, DWP Working Paper No 26, Jan 2006, p 17 Back

427   For example, Vol 2, Ev 167 and Vol 3, Ev 92  Back

428   Qq 133, 136 Back

429   Vol 2, Ev 167 Back

430   Qq 231-232 Back

431   Q 33 [Mr Faulkner] Back

432   HL Deb, 19 Dec 2005, col198WA Back

433   Vol 2: Ev 118, Ev 139, Ev 144, Ev 163, Ev 182 and Vol 3: Ev 129, Ev 174, Ev 189 and Ev 247 Back

434   HC Deb, 19 July 2005, col1629-1630W Back

435   Vol 2, Ev 139 Back

436   Vol 3: Ev 75 and Ev 80 Back

437   HC Deb, 20 March 2006, 127W Back

438   NAO, Gaining and retaining a job: DWPs' support for disabled people, HC 455, Session 2005-2006, 13 Oct 2005, p 50 Back

439   Vol 2: Ev 2, Ev 141, Ev 146 and Vol 3: Ev 65 and Ev 245 Back

440   Vol 2, Ev 146 Back

441   Vol 3, Ev 103 Back

442   Department of Health, Choosing Health: Making health choices easier, Cm 6374, November 2004, para 5 Back

443   Vol 3, Ev 27, 57, 72, 108 and 113 Back

444   DWP, Building Capacity for Work: A UK Framework for Vocational Rehabilitation, October 2004, p 39 Back

445   DWP, A new deal for welfare: Empowering people to work, Cm 6730, January 2006, p 30-31 Back

446   HM Government, Health, work and well-being - Caring for our future: A strategy for the health and well-being of working age people, October 2005, p 2 Back

447   Prime Minister'sStrategy Unit, Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People: Final report, January 2005 Back

448   Prime Minister'sStrategy Unit, Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People: Final report, January 2005, p186-194 Back

449   See, www.officefordisability.gov.uk and 'Office for Disability Issues launched today', Department for Work and Pension press release, 1 Dec 2005 Back

450   Q 147 Back

451   See, for example, Vol 2: Ev 60; Ev 168; Ev 199-200; Vol 3: Ev 76 Back

452   Q 119 Back

453   Ev 251, vol 3 Back

454   Ev 136, vol 2 Back

455   Q189 Back

456   DWP research report no 139, Recruiting benefit claimants: A survey of employers in ONE pilot areas Back

457   Q 132 Back

458   Q 132 Back

459   Ev 118, vol 2 Back

460   Ev 132, vol 3 Back

461   Vol 3, Ev 182, vol 2; Ev 270 Back

462   Vol 2, Ev 192 Back

463   Vol 2, Ev 192 Back

464   Ev 258, vol 3 Back

465   Q 103 Back

466   Ev 192, vol 2 Back

467   Ev 73, vol 6; Ev 175, vol 3 Back

468   Q 3 Back

469   Ev 2-3, vol 2 Back

470   Ev 61, vol 2 Back

471   Q 17 Back

472   Qq 6, 22-24 Back

473   Ev 248, vol 3 Back

474   Ev 248. vol 3 Back

475   NAO, Gaining and retaining a job: DWPs' support for disabled people, HC 455, Session 2005-2006, 13 Oct 2005, p3 & 19 Back

476   Ev 93, vol 2 Back

477   Q 130 Back

478   Q 136 Back

479   Ev 61, vol 2 Back

480   Q 143 Back

481   Ev 146, vol 2 Back

482   Q 7 Back

483   Q 145 Back

484   Q 134 Back

485   DWP, A new deal for welfare: Empowering people to work, Cm 6730, January 2006, p 49 Back

486   Q 139 Back


 
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