The number of disabled people working in the public sector has risen four times as fast as the number of able-bodied workers under Labour, research has found.
Between 1998 and 2004, the number of disabled public sector staff increased 24% compared with a 6% increase for non-disabled people.
Overall public sector employment rose 8% to 6.18 million in the six- year period, reflecting Labour’s recruitment drive to improve public services. Out of 473,000 extra staff, a third were classified as disabled.
But despite the jump in handicapped staff, researchers found the proportion of disabled people employed in the public sector still remained much lower than that of non-disabled people.
Michael Hirst and Patricia Thornton of York University’s social policy research unit said it was hard to distinguish what part of the increase was due to extra recruitment of disabled workers.
“More work is needed to understand how the relationship between being a disabled person and being in public sector employment develops over time. The dynamics of public sector employment could be linked to whether respondents identify themselves as disabled or not,” they concluded.
Hirst added: “The question is how much of the overall increase is retention or recruitment. The numbers are so high that there has to be a bit of both. But it is impossible to say what the driving force is.”
The research predicted the number of disabled people would rise further because of the proposed increase in retirement age for public sector workers.