How can the next Government offer the right support to disabled jobseekers and employers?

Two women are working in a shop. One is a wheelchair user and is holding a card reader in her hand as the other woman stands next to her and smiles to camera.

Since the pandemic, politicians have spoken a lot about ‘getting people back to work’.

There is a risk in this sort of language. It can make it sound as if disabled people are just reluctant to work, rather than out of work because of the barriers they face.

Not every disabled person can work. It’s vital that the welfare system continues to be there for people who face the greatest barriers to work.

But many disabled people do want to enter employment. It’s just that they aren’t getting the right support from the Government to do that.

Disabled people who do find work, meanwhile, tell us that often face bullying and discrimination, or aren’t being given everything they need to stay in their jobs.

Sense’s plan for change

As a charity, Sense doesn’t support any political party. Our priority this election is to make sure that disabled people, including the 1.6 million people with complex disabilities, are at the heart of what the next Government does.

Our manifesto sets out the seven key changes Sense wants to see every political party adopt.

So what does it say about employment?

A £5 million Jobcentre Assistive Technology Fund

Our welfare system isn’t doing enough to help disabled people into work.

Sense research has found that half of jobseekers with complex disabilities do not have the support and equipment they need to look for work.

For some disabled people, the support they need includes assistive technology, which enables them to use computers.

But we’ve found computers in jobcentres are not equipped with specialist assistive technology, making it harder for disabled people to apply for jobs online. 

Sense is calling on the next Government to introduce a £5 million Jobcentre Assistive Technology Fund to equip every jobcentre with assistive technology. 

Reforming Disability Confident

The Government’s Disability Confident scheme aims to make workplaces more inclusive of disabled people. But our research suggests that it too often fails to do that.

Disabled people tell us that they feel Disability Confident is a box-ticking exercise. Some even say that they have still experienced bullying and harassment despite their employer being part of the scheme.

Sadly, that’s no surprise – after all, the scheme sets a pretty low bar for entry.

Employers can sign up to the first two levels of Disability Confident using only self-assessment forms. Even the external audit for Level 3 is carried out by another Level 3 organisation, rather than by an independent inspection body.

Sense calling for the next Government to make Disability Confident scheme requirements to be made more accountable.

Raising awareness of Access to Work

Many disabled people in work receive vital support through the Department for Work and Pensions’ Access to Work scheme. The scheme provides practical and financial support to help disabled people overcome the barriers to work they face. This can include assistive technology, workplace adaptations, and travel expenses.

Access to Work is a fantastic scheme. But it’s not perfect. People who benefit from it say the process of making claims is slow and bureaucratic, and that it doesn’t work with their assistive technology. This is something the Government needs to address.

What’s more. not enough people have heard about it. Our polling found that 43% of people with complex disabilities weren’t aware of it. The Department for Work and Pensions should be doing more to promote Access to Work to employees and employers.

What next?

We want every political party to commit to Sense’s proposals for better support for disabled jobseekers and employees.

But, whatever happens, whoever is elected, Sense will be ready to work with the Government to put people with complex disabilities at the heart of the welfare system.