A man in a wheelchair at a desk

Government’s National Disability Strategy fails to support disabled workers

The government’s National Disability Strategy, which was implemented to offer support to help disabled people find jobs and retain them in employment, had its first anniversary this week. However, the initiative has so far failed to achieve positive outcomes.

The UK National Disability Strategy was introduced and implemented one year ago to support disabled people to find work and help them with retained employment. The initiative was designed in partnership with the Department for Work and Pensions with the aim of broadening disabled workers’ potential and outcomes in employment. 

However, head of policy at Disability Rights UK, Fazilet Hadi, believes the strategy "lacks ambition" and so far "has failed to achieve positive outcomes".  In an interview with HR magazine, Hadi reported how the strategy included "some limited measures" but was not "radical or ambitious in its goals". 

Workplace accessibility is a large element of the strategy as well as increasing opportunities for disabled workers through greater collaboration with employers. The strategy also detailed greater reporting on the disabled workforce and offered nurturing support to disabled people wanting to venture into the entrepreneurial sector.

In May this year it was reported that the number of disabled people in work was 1.3 million more than in the last five years. The target of 1 million was reached five years earlier than scheduled.

Although this number appears overwhelmingly positive, Hadi has suggested the figures may be skewed. She said:

“The government says that more than 1.3 million disabled people have joined the workforce since 2017, but our view is that these are people already in work, who now identify as disabled people. “

The figure of 1.3 million seems to have only been considered in isolation, as the disability employment gap and disability pay gap have not narrowed. 

The High Court’s verdict on the UK’s National Disability Strategy was deemed unlawful in January after it was found there was no proper consultation with disabled people. 

Louise Ruben, head of policy at Scope, a disability equality charity, said that disabled workers are disadvantaged and require more information from the government on how they intend to ‘level the playing field’.  She said:

“Getting a job is tougher if you are disabled. Scope has heard from disabled people who have had to apply for hundreds of jobs and who have been continuously overlooked by employers. Those who are in work often struggle to progress. With the National Disability Strategy in limbo, disabled people will want to know what the government is doing to support them through difficult times. Disabled people are being hit hardest by the worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation. It's clear that the government needs to take urgent action to make sure that disabled people have the support they need to stay and thrive in work, and we need answers quickly. “

The rate of employment for disabled people compared to the rate of non-disabled people is just over 28% and has remained around this figure for over ten years. 

As the UK’s National Disability Strategy commemorates its first-year anniversary, there appear to be many improvements the government must commit to and implement to impact disabled workers’ lives.