Thursday, 5 April 2012

Disabled Workers, the Race to the Bottom

Guest Blog by Bill Scott, Manager, Inclusion Scotland

The proposed closure of Remploy factories quite rightly provoked outrage. Whatever anyone’s opinion might be of supported workplaces it is a fact that 85% of the disabled workers sacked during the last round of Remploy redundancies have yet to find work. That means that the vast majority of the Remploy workforce affected by the current round of closures are being condemned to a lifetime on the dole.

‘But don’t worry’, says the UK Government, ‘the money saved from closing the Remploy plants will be reinvested in Access to Work’. Forget the morality of stealing funding that supports one group of disabled workers to fund another group to keep their jobs and simply ask “Will this work?”.

Access to Work (AtW) funding is only available to disabled people starting or continuing employment. It is of no use to unemployed disabled people wanting to get qualifications or to volunteer. In addition the adaptations that AtW will fund have been severely restricted. What effect has that had on take-up?

There are 668,000 disabled people in Scotland aged between 16 and 64. In 2009/10 AtW supported 2,790 of them to keep or get employment at a cost of £6.4 million. So just 0.4% of Scots disabled people of working age received any AtW support.

The proportion of disabled people being assisted through AtW in Scotland is also way below the UK average. In the UK there were 35,820 disabled people assisted through AtW in 2010/2011. Proportionately that means 3,500 disabled people in Scotland should have been helped meaning AtW take-up in Scotland is about 20% lower than it should be.

The number of new customers being supported by AtW has also fallen dramatically. In the years 2008/9 and 2010/11 between 6,500 and 8,000 “new” disabled people were helped in the first 6 months of each year. But in the first 6 months of 2011/12 the figure for new customers helped had fallen to under 5,000. That’s around a 25% drop year-on-year. Far from AtW supporting more disabled people it’s actually supporting less. Instead of Government platitudes disabled people need real jobs and genuine support to access and keep them.

There has to be a Better Way...

For further information on AtW and its success, or otherwise, in supporting disabled workers in the workplace please access the AtW official statistics  available on the DWP website.

Bill Scott
Manager, Inclusion Scotland

For further information on the work of Inclusion Scotland please vist their website