Memorandum submitted by Mencap

 

Summary of consultation response to Equality in Employment

 

The number of people with a learning disability in paid employment is very low compared to the number of disabled people as a whole who are in employment.

The DWP's current welfare reform agenda will further exclude people with a learning disability from the labour market.

The Equality Bill provides the opportunity for a duty on public bodies to monitor disability equality by category of disability, thus ensuring that those furthest from the labour market, such as people with a learning disability will not be left behind by the equality agenda.

 

Consultation response to Equality in Employment

 

How effective has DWP been in achieving equality in employment?

 

1. Alarmingly, the number of people with a learning disability in employment has not increased at all since the Government came to power in 1997.

 

2. People with a learning disability remain the most excluded group of disabled people from the UK work force, with an estimated employment rate of 17%[1] compared with 49% of disabled people as a whole and 74% for the working-age population as a whole.

 

3. None of the existing employment programmes deliver for people with a learning disability. This is despite the fact that 65% of people with a learning disability would like to work[2] and there is much evidence to show that people with a learning disability make highly valued employees when given the right support.

 

 

How would DWP have to change to achieve greater equality in employment?

 

4. Mencap has deep concerns about the Government's current welfare reform agenda which is set to further exclude people with a learning disability from the labour market. Specialist supported employment agencies working specifically with people with a learning disability often struggle to get long-term funding and Mencap has growing concerns about the DWP's commissioning strategy in terms of the contracting out of welfare-to-work employment provision. These new, larger contracting arrangements will mean specialist niche providers are squeezed out of the tendering process and, as a consequence, people with a learning disability will not receive the specialist support they need to move into work.

 

5. Mencap is also concerned that a focus on payment by results is likely to disadvantage people with a learning disability who may take longer to move into work and who may be more expensive to support. A report by the Social Market Foundation[3] supports Mencap's concerns and identify "serious implications" for those hardest to help who may take longer to move into work:

 

The uniform payment to contractors for each job outcome achieved has serious implications for harder-to-help jobseekers, who will require more support at greater cost. Under the proposed uniform payment structure, those furthest from the labour market will inevitably not be offered services appropriate to their needs - they will be 'parked'. This will occur because the design of the payment system sets the profit motive of contractors in tension with the aim to help all clients. This need not be the case and its effects are in the interests of neither the jobseeker nor the taxpayer.

 

6. Mencap believes that the DWP should also focus on engaging with employers about working with people with a learning disability as stigma and prejudice about people with a learning disability is still widespread and remains one of the biggest barriers to employment for this group

 

 

How can the Equality Bill open up opportunities in employment, particularly for disabled people, carers and pensioners?

 

7. The Government have signalled their intent that the Equality Bill will aim to increase the number of people with a disability in employment by asking public bodies to collect and publish data on the number of their employees who have a disability:

 

Framework for a Fairer Future - The Equality Bill, June 2008, Government Document

 

We know that across the country as a whole...if you are disabled you are two and a half times more likely to be out of work. But we do not know what the picture is by workplace. Transparency will highlight areas where we need to make progress.
We will:

ensure public sector employers publish clear information

about their progress on important equality issues.

...We are doing further work before putting forward proposals for exactly what information public bodies should be required to publish

 

The Equality Bill - Government response to the Consultation, July 2008, Government Document

 

We want public bodies to report on important equality areas. We are doing further work before putting forward proposals for exactly what information public bodies should be required to publish, and we will consult on this later. These could include, for example:

gender pay;

ethnic minority employment; and

disability employment.

This transparency will enable us to see progress year by year within a public authority and to:

see which authorities are making progress and learn lessons from them;

identify which authorities are falling behind; and

allow comparisons between similar authorities.

 

8. Mencap is concerned that unless these new proposals for increased disability equality monitoring by public authorities under the Equality Bill include the duty to monitor and publish disability by category, those furthest from the labour market, such as people with a learning disability will be left behind by the equality agenda.

 

9. Indeed the scale of unemployment for people with a learning disability may be hidden under any general improvements in the rate of employment for disabled people. Thus people with a learning disability will be denied the independence and equality of opportunity which employment can provide.

 

10. Mencap recommends that the Equality Bill either contains a stipulation that public authorities record disability by category and that the Equality and Human Rights Commission should publish guidance on what these categories might be or that it contains an explicit breakdown of these categories of disability within the Bill.

 

11. (NB Mencap does not believe that making an individual's response to whether they have a disability mandatory would be a proportionate means of achieving disability equality. People with a disability have their right to privacy respected and must retain the right not to disclose their disability. Mencap therefore believes that it is crucial that public authorities should also be given guidance on how to explain the importance of disclosing a disability.)

 

November 2008



[1] People with a learning disabilities in England, Eric Emerson and Chris Hatton, Centre for Disability Research, May 2008.

[2] Adults with learning difficulties In England, Eric Emerson, Lancaster University 2005.

[3] The Flexible New Deal - Making it work, Ian Mulheirn and Verena Menne, Social Market Foundation, September 2008.