When the Valuing People white paper was published in 2001
one of the key issues flagged up was a lack of job opportunities for people with learning difficulties.
So here we are five years on and the Department for Work and Pensions has just published a new report – flagging up the lack of job opportunities for people with learning difficulties.
The report sets out the issues – and makes some excellent recommendations – but it is hard to avoid a growing sense of frustration at the slow progress in this area. The working group who produced the report believes it provides “a valuable and realistic starting point” for tackling the issue. OK, but for goodness sake let’s get on with it now so we see some real change soon.
The report calls on the DWP to review the current income support disregard level to allow people to work more hours without losing their benefit. This has been a bugbear for so long the question is surely why hasn’t action been taken already to address this and make the system more flexible.
Again, the report correctly identifies other barriers to people with learning difficulties trying to get into the workplace, such as the complexity of the system putting off would-be employers. But unless some sort of major support programme is set up – alongside real incentives for getting involved – the chances of any real change are slim as employers will inevitably be asking
“what’s in it for me?”
The sheer number of recommendations contained in the report – a total of 42 in all – is a measure of the amount of work that still needs to be done. But many are qualified with the phrase “subject to resources” which, in the current financial climate, effectively nullifies them.
One of the main messages from the report is the need for a “clear ministerial lead” on this issue. The care services minister Ivan Lewis has signalled that improving the lives of people with learning difficulties is one of his priorities so this is an ideal chance for him to put his money where his mouth is and get his colleagues in government to do the same. A decent job and adequate salary gives people with learning difficulties the chance to lead purposeful and independent lives. This should be a right, not something you are only entitled to “subject to resources”.Additional reading
Clients paid below minimum wage as work providers ignore guidance