Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The Government's Lack of Commitment to Disabled Job Seekers

The government's entire policy on getting disabled people into employment is crazed with fracture lines. The policy is ideologically driven to take as many people off Incapacity Benefit and Income Support and migrate them to a 'cheaper' benefit, Job Seekers' Allowance.

This is being carried out during a period of high unemployment, with a slump in the economy which has all the indications of sliding into a double-dip recession. To make things worse, the sector which has the best protections for disabled people and was traditionally more able to absorb larger numbers of us, the public sector, is currently haemorrhaging jobs. Thus, this avenue of employment opportunity is fast becoming clogged.

Access to Work, a scheme providing disabled people the means to go to work over and above what are deemed as reasonable adjustments is under threat. Access to Work has been taken out of many Ministerial Government Departments, again diminishing disabled job opportunities in the public sector; not satisfied with this the government has taken scores of items previously available under AtoW from the scheme. This will effectively mean less disabled people getting into paid work.

Currently there are something like 5 job hunters going after every job. Does anyone realistically expect disabled people to get a look-in; we are in the middle of an employers' market. Why would an employer choose a disabled person, someone who has possibly spent the past few years scrounging off the state while cheating the benefits' system, when they can cherry pick from the hundreds of thousands of recently laid-off workers.

The greatest failing, in many ways, of this government is their inability to secure a decent contract with ATOS. Currently ATOS only do part of the job, and that badly, with the Work Capability Assessments. Rather than have healthcare workers simply signing people fit for work, and job done. Why isn't the process more holistic.

Anyone, so it seems, can sit down at a computer and deem someone fit or 'unfit' for work. While this information has some importance, it doesn't go anywhere near to solving the problem of, where someone is fit to do some kind of work...what kind of work...and where is the work.

What is needed are healthcare assessors with occupational medicine expertise. People who have worked within industry, commerce, services, etc in an occupational health capacity.

Their job wouldn't just be to make an assessment and move on. They'd be part of a bigger picture that also involved disability employment advisors. Together they would assess for a) someone's capacity to work, b) the kind of hours realistically achievable, c) the areas of employment suitable, d) the kind of work for which someone is qualified, and, e) training potential.

If this could be achieved then we'd only have the entrenched attitudes of employers to get around; that, and get the economy on an even keel that would allow for the levelling out of the playing field.

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