Top campaigner to probe government work support for disabled

Employment support programmes for disabled people are to be put under scrutiny in a government-commissioned review headed by leading disability campaigner Liz Sayce.

Sayce, the chief executive of disability network Radar, will examine the various Department for Work and Pensions programmes to support disabled people to gain, retain and progress in work.

At 48%, the disability employment rate is well below that of the whole population (71%), while the rates for certain groups, such as people with learning disabilities or mental health problems, are far lower still.

Sayce said: “Disabled people continue to face barriers to employment and I hope that this review will help the department make real improvements to the services that support disabled people who want to develop fulfilling careers.”

Her review follows the launch of Work Choice in October, a programme to support the most severely disabled people into work, and ahead of the introduction of the Work Programme, the government’s overarching employment support scheme that will cater for many disabled people.

The British Association of Supported Employment (BASE), which represents providers, has warned that the Work Programme may not tailor services sufficiently to the needs of disabled people given its wide reimt. It has also warned that the Work Choice funding regime, under which providers are paid according to clients’ job outcomes, will lead to them focusing on the easiest to help rather than the most severely disabled.

While Sayce can suggest ways of improving both the Work Programme and Work Choice, she cannot subject them to a fundamental review.

She has also been tasked with looking at the future of government-supported employment provider Remploy, the Access to Work scheme, which funds adaptations to help disabled people work, and the residential training colleges for the disabled that the DWP also funds.

The review will not cover employment support programmes funded by local authorities or the NHS, typically for people with learning disabilities or mental health problems.

This is despite the fact that BASE has warned that council programmes are at risk from significant cuts on the back of the government’s comprehensive spending review.

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