BDF calls for more inclusion following Government’s new White Paper

Forum highlights gaps in Government's initiatives

The Business Disability Forum (BDF) welcomes the Chancellor’s Spring Budget statement and the release of the Health and Disability White Paper but believes more is needed to ensure people with disabilities and long-term conditions are included in the workforce.

In response to new initiatives that include a reform of the disability benefits system, Angela Matthews, Head of Policy at the Business Disability Forum, believes that while the BDF is pleased with the benefits system review and the discussions about occupational health are positive, disabled people’s contributions to the economy and growth are still being overlooked.

Said Matthews: “Disabled people can experience financial disadvantage when moving into employment because pay from an employer and payments from benefits simply don’t sync.

“We are pleased that the benefits system has been reviewed to ensure disabled people can retain some of their benefits in work while they financially readjust.”

Occupational health

She added: “The discussion on occupational health in the Budget and the white paper is also positive. We know that quality occupational health support can make a significant difference in the working lives of disabled people. Still, a more collaborative approach between occupational health providers, employers and employees is often needed.

Occupational health needs to be one of many workplace health interventions available so people can access what works for their situation at the right time.

While the Budget aims to break down barriers that stop people from working, Matthews believes it falls short for employees and potential employees with disabilities and long-term conditions.

“People cannot work – get work or stay in work – if their conditions are not ongoingly supported and managed by the appropriate NHS interventions,” said Matthews.

“Employees working in our member organisations are still on NHS waiting lists and off sick while medical procedures are postponed.

Matthews further stated that support for people who experience life-changing illnesses or disabilities is often limited and fragmented once they leave the hospital. Work and health settings must join up and provide better, more work-ready effective interventions to ensure people can safely enter employment.

Access to Work

The Business Disability Forum is disappointed that the Access to Work scheme, which supports disabled people in employment, is still only available to those already in work or with an interview arranged.

“A ‘back to work’ investment must include Access to Work being available to anyone with a disability who is looking or who wants to look for employment.”

Access to Work is currently overwhelmed and under-resourced, but an investment to expand it could make a huge difference, both to the inclusion of disabled people in the labour market and to the wider economy.

The Business Disability Forum will continue to discuss the measures announced with its members and assess their impact on disabled people and employers. It hopes the Government will take further steps to address the issues.

Remove barriers to employment

Also commenting on the Budget’s impact on disabled people were senior leaders across businesses.

Tania Bowers, Global Public Policy Director for APSCo, said: “While we await the full details of the reforms to disability benefits, the Chancellor’s focus on removing barriers to employment is a sentiment we echo.

“It cannot be stressed enough, though, that planned support to get more disabled people into work needs to address issues including inflexible work practices, transportation challenges and the inflexibility in hiring processes that continues to impact this segment of the workforce.”

Hannah Copeland, HR Business Partner at employment law and HR consultancy firm, WorkNest: “It’s refreshing to see a focus on supporting those in underrepresented groups in the workplace, especially with the focus on disabled employees and those who have long-term sickness and caring responsibilities.

“In this sense, the spring budget supports diversity and inclusion directly, but it remains to be seen what precise impact these initiatives can actually have, especially in light of many workplaces where equity is (and for many years, has been) a challenge for which progress is too slow.

“The initiatives will still need to be supplemented by specific and direct interventions, focused on diversity and inclusion, which WorkNest can support with.” 

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