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Business Disability Forum responds to the publication of the Work and Pensions Committee’s report on the disability employment gap

people near Big Ben in LondonResponding to the publication of the Work and Pensions Committee’s report on the disability employment gap (30 July), Angela Matthews, Head of Policy, said:

“We would like to thank the Work and Pensions Committee for undertaking this important inquiry. We are also pleased to have been invited to give evidence on behalf of the employers and disabled employees in our membership.

“The Committee captured two important points from the evidence we gave: firstly, that the disability employment gap should not be assessed by a single metric which treats disabled people as one group who generally are ‘in or out’ of work. Government data does not currently effectively capture information about or adequately consider the experiences of people with complex conditions, deafblindness, speech impairments, and severe energy-limiting conditions such as fibromyalgia and ME.

“Secondly, remote and home working during the pandemic has not worked for all disabled people, particularly those who were amid getting access and used to working with assistive technologies at the time of the first lockdown last year. Many disabled people also face many digital barriers aside from assistive technology. For example, we know from our own research that, while many employers have a WCAG compliant public facing website, their intranet, e-learning platforms, and other internal digital systems that are heavily relied on during home and remote working remain largely inaccessible, if accessibility tested at all.

“We welcome the Committee’s recommendation that measuring the gap should be done in multiple ways. Their recommendation includes both halving the overall disability employment gap and increasing the number of disabled people in work to an additional 1.2million by 2027. How the gap is currently measured allows for the latter to be conflated by a single percentage and, as above, does not take account of the various and multiple gaps experienced by people with different types of conditions and impairments, meaning people who experience the most complex barriers to work are hidden by the way data has chosen to be reported.

“We are pleased to see the Committee suggest collecting data in a way that includes a more realistic assessment of how disabled people move in and out of employment – for example, adopting long-term research methods to measure how disabled people are moving in and out of work and, importantly, the reasons for why this is. This will enable better data on the reasons behind the figures, instead of just capturing a figure alone, and will filter into better informed policy decision making.

“Finally, we are pleased the Committee has highlighted that it is not OK to accept that disabled ‘just do’ have a higher death rate due to coronavirus. The apparent acceptance by the Government that 6 in 10 people who have died from coronavirus are disabled is the undercurrent upon which we build the value of disabled people in society and in our economy, and this needs to change. Following our work with the Women and Equalities Committee last year on the Unequal impact of coronavirus on disabled people, we welcome the Committee’s recommendation that further research be done on the increased risk of Covid deaths of disabled people.”

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