National Audit Office criticises government’s approach to disability employment

The government has not yet fully considered how it will get a million more disabled people into work by 2027, a report has claimed.

In its Supporting disabled people to work report, the National Audit Office has suggested the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has limited evidence of which methods of employment support for disabled people are effective.

The report said: “The Department has had employment support programmes in place for several decades. Over that time it has evaluated aspects of many of its programmes. However, it has only rarely undertaken rigorous evaluation of programmes’ impact on disabled people’s employment outcomes.

“Although evaluations are planned, the Department has not completed robust impact evaluations on any of the programmes it currently has in place, meaning neither we nor the Department can yet say whether they are effective or not.”

The government has outlined an ambition to see an additional one million people with disabilities in work compared with 2017. Between 2013 and 2018, the number of disabled people in employment increased by 930,000. In the final quarter of 2018, 51.5% of disabled people of working age were in work, compared with 81.7% of non-disabled working-age people.

The NAO report acknowledged that the DWP allocated £100m over 2017-2019 to trial initiatives to help disabled people into work. However, it suggested that turning these trial results into a clear and funded strategy will “not necessarily be straightforward”.

Its recommendations, among others, included:

  • the DWP taking the lead in implementing a cross-government strategy, with a full implementation plan for the 10-year target;
  • providing Jobcentre Plus work coaches with a framework for setting goals with disabled people; and
  • developing a strategy for turning evidence into a practical delivery plan.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Institute of Employment Studies director Tony Wilson said: “Disabled people are twice as likely to be out of work as those who aren’t disabled – and despite manifesto commitments, green papers and white papers those odds have barely changed over the last decade.

“As Amber Rudd has acknowledged, we need much greater ambition and a clear and longer term strategy. For example on current plans, just 1% of out-of-work disabled people each year will access the government’s flagship disability employment programme, and the two million people out of work due to long-standing health conditions usually receive no employment support at all.

“In our view, a new approach should be built on three things: working in partnership, with disabled people and across services and sectors; building on what works and is working, both for those in and out of work; and using the Spending Review to make the case for more and better investment in the future.”

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