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Working With a Disability

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Do people with disabilities work? Can you work while on disability benefits? 

It’s complicated to navigate the world of work when you have a disability or long-term health condition. As a service offering employment support to people with health issues in Tyne and Wear, we have an understanding of what it’s like to work with a disability in our area.

However, what is the current state of affairs for people with disabilities across the UK, and does the support on offer meet requirements?

At the end of March, the National Audit Office published a report titled ‘supporting disabled people to work‘. The report explored the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) current support offer for people classed as having a disability.

Although the report has a national focus, the findings are relevant to so many of the people we work with at Moving On Tyne & Wear.

This post will explore some of the most relevant discoveries and evaluate how they relate to the people of Tyne and Wear.

Quick takeaways

  • There were 7.6 million disabled people of working age in the final quarter of 2018
  • The number of disabled people in employment has increased by 930,000 from 2013 to 2018
  • Employment rates for disabled people are 30.2% lower than non-disabled people (51.5% vs 81.7%)
  • In the UK, there were 2.4 million people claiming out-of-work incapacity benefits (or Universal Credit equivalent) as of May 2018.
    • The DWP expects at least 600,000 of people claiming these benefits (or Jobseeker’s Allowance but self-reporting disabilities) to be seeking work

What could it mean?

Although it’s clear that not everyone with a disability is able to work, many struggle to find a job which suits their needs. As the report confirms, there is a number of people who are out of work – unemployed or economically inactive – who are keen to work but require the ‘right support’.

These findings do show the number of disabled people in work is increasing. However, the employment rates are significantly lower for people with a disability compared to non-disabled people.

The DWP expects a large number of those out of work due to health and disability to be in work. As we see in our participants, many people in this position feel the same way. Often, these people have individual, complex needs which need to be addressed. They may require one-to-one support – something our Navigators can provide.

The value of services like Moving On Tyne & Wear and other Building Better Opportunities programmes is highlighted through this report. It states: ‘there is a risk that service levels will not be sustained as pressure on jobcentres increases’. Each Work Coach’s caseload is expected to increase from 130 currently to over 280 as the number of Universal Credit claimants increases.

We already work closely with Jobcentres. MOTW is a key referral path for claimants who have health issues or disabilities but require support to enter the job market. Although participants will continue to work with Work Coaches, significant pressure is alleviated from the Jobcentre as our Navigators can provide assistance with job search and other employability skills.

Our region

Evidence shows a significant employment gap for people who are disabled and non-disabled. Our region shows evidence of an even greater divide. The most recent research available for Community Foundation shows the employment rate for disabled people in Tyne and Wear is 9.1% lower than the national average.

The Community Foundation report states: ‘Local authorities in Tyne & Wear have set a great example in relation to the employment of disabled people. However, this may mean that proportionately more disabled people’s jobs have been at risk due to reductions in public expenditure’. As well as job creation, employers should be educated about being more inclusive. It’s their responsibility to shift recruitment attitudes. This could be the key to organically creating opportunities.

Should a disability stop you from working?

There is no way to truly answer this question – no response is ‘one size fits all’. As the report touches on, there is no doubt that many people who have disabilities and long-term health conditions cannot, and should not, work. However, there are undoubtedly many people with disabilities who could work given the right support.

John Facchini, our Pathways Employer Engagement Officer, works closely with employers and participants. He believes the employer has an important part to play when it comes to creating jobs for people with disabilities.

“A disability does not reflect someone’s ability to do a particular job. Simply put, an individual with a disability may require an employer to make reasonable adjustments to allow the person to maximise their potential.

“Adjustments in the workplace can often be funded by the government’s Access to Work grant, where, in the past it has paid for transport to and from work, mentoring support, specialist IT equipment, to name a few.

“A reasonable adjustment could also be a work trial or working interview.  Our individuals have found that they are much more likely to get a job, this being that they are able to show their work rather than talk about it”.


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