Getting more disabled people into work


by Rumbold
19th June, 2011 at 10:15 am    

Recently the Conservative MP Philip Davies argued that disabled people should be allowed to work for less than the minimum wage, as they face greater barriers to employment:

The people who are most disadvantaged by the national minimum wage are the most vulnerable in society. My concern about it is it prevents those people from being given the opportunity to get the first rung on the employment ladder.

Given that some of those people with a learning disability clearly, by definition, can’t be as productive in their work as somebody who hasn’t got a disability of that nature, then it was inevitable that given that the employer was going to have to pay them both the same, they were going to take on the person who was going to be more productive, less of a risk, and that was doing those people a huge disservice.”

Some of what he said was very insulting, especially the bit about people with a learning difficulty being inherently more inefficient then those without (given that many people with conditions such as dyslexia are highly productive), and he has been heavily and rightly criticised for it. He is also wrong to focus on the national minimum wage, and his plan would create a two tier system within a firm.

Mr. Davies was right in several ways however; that many employers are unwilling to take on people with visible/severe disabilities because of the perceived extra cost and hassle. And he is right too to argue that merely saying that it is illegal to discriminate doesn’t stop employers turning down applicants for this reason. After all, if there are thirty applicants for a job, nobody notices if an employer turns down the one with a disability.

Clearly attitudes need to change. But in the meantime, there is a way to make some disabled applicants more attractive to employers. Some people with disabilities do need their employers to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to their workplace, such as hearing loops. Since this is a requirement under the Disability Discrimination Act (1995), many employers aren’t willing to take them on because of the extra cost.

This is where Access to Work comes in. This is a little known, but very useful scheme which refunds employers for the purchase of disability related equipment. A recent DWP report estimated its spending return:

Medium term, greater investment is needed in Access to Work, as it reaps net benefits to the Exchequer – an estimated return to the Treasury of £1.48 for every £1 invested, with even higher returns to society overall (including improved health and well-being).

The benefits include keeping people in work who would otherwise be claiming out of work benefits. Yet because Access to Work is mostly unknown, employers aren’t able to take advantage of it. Educating employers about Access to Work would have a greater impact than worrying about lowing the minimum wage for disabled workers.


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Filed in: Disability






13 Comments below   |  

Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. sunny hundal

    Blogged: : Getting more disabled people into work http://bit.ly/jM8Hzk


  2. Angela Cavill-Burch

    Blogged: : Getting more disabled people into work http://bit.ly/jM8Hzk


  3. Crimson Crip

    Blogged: : Getting more disabled people into work http://bit.ly/jM8Hzk


  4. Daniel Stintzing

    Blogged: : Getting more disabled people into work http://bit.ly/jM8Hzk


  5. Jill Hayward

    Blogged: : Getting more disabled people into work http://bit.ly/jM8Hzk


  6. Luton NUT

    Blogged: : Getting more disabled people into work http://bit.ly/jM8Hzk


  7. Luisa-Elena Lopez

    @sunny_hundal highlights the excellent & little known 'Access To Work' scheme: "Getting more disabled people into work http://t.co/1zhydnd”


  8. Clive Burgess

    Blogged: : Getting more disabled people into work http://bit.ly/jM8Hzk




  1. Lisa — on 19th June, 2011 at 1:20 pm  

    Of course, it’s being cut back too…

  2. Don — on 19th June, 2011 at 8:24 pm  

    Interesting post, Rumbold.

    Work is crucial to being a fully functional person and for those deprived of it life seldom goes well, but for people with disabilities work is many times more important.

    Once out of the educational system, plus a few years if you have a decent local council, without work isolation and invisibilty are almost inevitable and, unless here is a strong supportive family or community (one of the few times that word actually means what it should mean), there are often worse outcomes than that.

    The idea that wages should have some sort of disability discount is brutally insulting. As Lisa above pointed out, funds to help the disabled into work are being cut and without voices speaking out those with a disability are likely to be among the most affected by cost-cutting.

    Oddly enough I have found that Starbucks, so often targeted as a symbol of wicked globalisation, are one of the best when it comes to providing training and support for young people with disabilities trying to get into work. I’m sure there are others, but Starbucks are pretty good.

  3. sarah — on 20th June, 2011 at 1:44 am  

    Thanks for this post, Rumbold. Don… Google Elsa Sallard please, then see what you think of Starbucks employment policies.

  4. Trofim — on 20th June, 2011 at 6:19 am  

    “Work is crucial to being a fully functional person ”

    Absolutely not. Now retired, I worked purely in order to live, with a view to retiring early. I have not missed it for a minute. With, perhaps, 25 years of life ahead of me, if I’m lucky, several lifetimes would not be sufficient to do all the things I put off for 40 years – painting, sculpting, gardening, experimenting, zillions of books to read and write, languages to learn. Work exists because it has to be done. In my culture, work is nothing more than a necessary evil. Liking it is an aberration. The sooner it can all be done by robots, the better. They did promise us in the 1960′s that by now no-one would need to work more than 3 hours a week, but no government has seriously tried to bring about a sane society in which this would be the case.

  5. Rumbold — on 20th June, 2011 at 8:23 am  

    Don and Sarah:

    Individual cases aside, which are rightly condemned, Starbucks does have a good policy on employing disabled people. Someone I know works at a nearby adult education college and a number of her severely disabled students are employed by local Starbucks.

    Asda and M&S go out of their way to employ disabled workers too.

    Don and Trofim:

    I agree. Work is important because it gives people more of a structure, a purpose and a greater peer group. Yes, as Trofim says, you don’t want to be working for your entire life, but for many people the alternative is not really doing anything for long periods of time.

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