As a former employee of a welfare to work charity, I know the difficulty that the teams had persuading employers of all sizes to take a risk, as they saw it, on someone with a disability. The charity I worked for specialized in providing opportunities for people with profound learning and physical disabilities into work. These were people that were paid at the same rate as their colleagues and did the same job, often “carving” a set of tasks into a role.
Over the last 7 years, the job of employment support charities has only got harder, but the Conservative Government always had warm words for helping to make the job market #DisabilityConfident. This fitted with their agenda that everyone could and should work and benefits cuts were justified as the jobless were gaming the system. This was despite the reality that people who receive state help, needed more support, not less and cutting people’s money does nothing to enable people into work.
So when the Chancellor blamed the UK’s productivity problem on high levels of people with a disability in work it felt like the mask had slipped. Not only is this factually incorrect, it is also insulting to the thousands of disabled in work who are doing equal work for equal pay and the thousands who are spending their time talking to employers to represent and recruit from a diverse local community.
Here is Cornwall, this statement is more acute as the new Disability Minister is Sarah Newton who is our local MP for Truro and Falmouth. Instead of issuing an immediate retraction she is keeping a low profile not even marking International Disabled Persons Day.
Any representative for disabled people need to find their voice and speak up and use their power for some of the most vulnerable people in society and Sarah should put party loyalty aside and get Phillip Hammond to apologise publicly and commit to take responsibility for the low productivity in Britain and look at the real barriers facing people with a disability who are looking for work and who are in work.