The report argues that the Government will damage efforts to help disabled people find work unless it changes direction. Last year Ministers decided to reduce the proportion of welfare-for-work services delivered by the private sector and charities despite the success of those organisations.
This is a backwards step, according to the authors, who are instead calling for the Government to reverse its decision and instead improve the design of existing programmes delivered by the independent sector.
They suggest that the funding mechanisms should be altered to give providers higher payments if they succeed in helping the ‘hardest-to-help’ people into work, as well as incentivising them to try new ideas, recognising failure is part of the learning process.
The report calls on employers to provide more job opportunities. Employers should employ more disabled apprentices, paid for by additional government funding. Training providers and employers should receive higher payments if they take on a disabled apprentice. Employers should also provide more supported internships for disabled people, typically lasting for one year.
It also argues for the Disability Confident scheme to be given more teeth. Of the 376 employers registered as official supporters, only 68 are active members. In order to qualify as a Disability Confident organisation, employers should have to offer a voluntary work experience programme for disabled people of all ages. They should report publically how many placements are offered and completed each year. The Government should also hold Disability Confident employers publicly accountable against a framework of formal standards.
Dr Stephen Beyer said “People with learning disabilities and people with mental health problems have low levels of employment and government employment support systems find them the most difficult to support. The report provides sensible recommendations for reforming referrals, minimum service level and the periods over which support is given. These, together with improvements in funding mechanisms, would greatly improve the prospects of people with these more complex disabilities entering the labour market.”
Charlotte Pickles, Deputy Director and Head of Research at Reform, said: “The Government is wrong to revert back to Jobcentre Plus. Outsourced welfare-to-work services have been highly successful. They are essential to helping the Government meet its manifesto pledge to halve the disability employment gap.”
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