Is Access To Work Doing Enough To Secure Disabled People Employment?

Despite rising employment figures of those with disabilities, we question whether the government’s Access To Work scheme is doing enough. A lot of coverage in the news recently has brought to light a number of issues with the government’s Access To Work scheme. Launched with the intention of opening up the world of employment to disabled people, the scheme still has a long way to go to fulfil its objective. At the end of last year MPs noted that the necessary government support is simply not reaching people. So is the scheme really doing enough to help?

Despite admirable aims, it appears that the scheme’s strategy has been underestimated. Findings from a report by the Work and Pensions Select Committee revealed that the programme has suffered from a lack of funding and publicity, but most importantly a lack of understanding. Although the scheme helped 35,000 people into a secure job role last year, this increase has not met original plans laid out by the government. Disabled people take up an increasingly large proportion of the UK population but still become somewhat neglected when considering the nation’s unemployment rates. According to new research more than one third (37%) of disabled jobseekers have faced some form of discrimination during the recruitment process. It is the crucial need for a positive and thorough understanding of disabilities that seems to be the primary concern.

Steps have been made to encourage equity yet disabled people remain far less employable. Discrimination can be stated as partly to blame, however without the right level of understanding it seems unfair for businesses to be expected to know how to best offer solutions for employing those with disabilities. Kate Headley, the director of the diversity consultancy, Clear Company, stated that ‘It is evident that a lack of awareness and knowledge is continuing to have an adverse effect on the recruitment of disabled people’. Indeed a fear seems to stem from employing disabled people because of the unknown costs associated that could potentially arise.

The ‘unknown’ then, is what needs to be addressed. As outlined by the government in the Access To Work scheme, grants can be offered to provide ‘reasonable adjustments’, for example:

  • adaptations to the equipment used or special equipment where necessary
  • a support worker or job coach to help in the workplace
  • disability awareness training for colleagues
  • Many disabled people are unaware of what they are entitled to so further publicity needs to be made. Employers too are left in the dark as to what their duties are and how to meet these. Obtaining the right products to support disabled people can cause difficulties but many online sellers offer a range of simple solutions. Whilst the ‘fear of the unknown’ is an issue, employers should not dismiss disabled candidates. A lot of positive and simple steps can be integrated into businesses to aid disabled employment. The government’s promise to cover associated costs should leave employers more at ease. After all, ‘one in eighteen jobseekers has a disability’ so recognising disabled candidates can give employers more opportunities to find diverse and creative talents. And if the government were able to directly provide training (as promised) to businesses, the understanding of disabilities would substantially grow.

    The Disability Confident Campaign launched in 2013 is just one example of the how wide publicity can help tackle the issue. The coverage of the July conference opened up the potential of disabled candidates to businesses. Regular training should be delivered to ensure that employment rates continue to rise to reach the government’s aim for more disabled people to find employment.

    This article was contributed by Malcolm Simister, owner of UKS Mobility, providers of mobility and disability aids in the UK.