This MSP briefing was written for the Scottish Parliament Debate on the Programme for Government on 2nd September 2020
Inclusion Scotland is a ‘Disabled People’s Organisation’ (DPO) – led by disabled people ourselves. Inclusion Scotland works to achieve positive changes to policy and practice, so that we disabled people are fully included throughout all Scottish society as equal citizens.
- Yesterday’s Programme for Government missed opportunities to remedy the disastrous employment outcomes for disabled people across Scotland.
- Despite human rights and the needs of people with protected characteristics being front and centre in the text of this Programme there was little detail about what and how new or extended initiatives will do to benefit disabled people.
- The Employment Gap between disabled and non-disabled people of working age is higher in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK.
- The economic impact of Covid-19 is likely to be disproportionately high on disabled people in terms of redundancy and reduced hours.
- Young disabled people are already disproportionately likely to be NEET before the pandemic struck.
- The Fair Start Scotland employability programme has been barely more successful than the DWP’s Work Programme.
- Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) have a higher success rate in placing and supporting disabled people in sustaining employment, but our involvement and contribution is marginalised.
- Young disabled people need to be treated as a priority group for access to the Jobs Guarantee Scheme and other employability support or they could suffer life-long scarring.
- Employability programmes, both mainstream and those designed for disabled people, should be designed and operated in partnership with disabled people and their organisations.
Disabled People’s Employment Rate
- The average employment rate of working age disabled people in Scotland was 47% in 2008/9 whilst the employment rate of non-disabled people was 80% – an employment gap of 33%[i].
- By 2018 the employment rate of non-disabled people in Scotland had risen to 81% whilst the employment rate of disabled people was 45% – that is the employment gap had increased to 36%. In contrast the employment rate of disabled people in England had increased from 47% in 2008 to 53% by 2018 and the employment gap had narrowed to 29%.
Young Disabled People
- Since peaking at around 23% in 2012, the Scottish youth unemployment rate fell to a record low level of around 9% by late 2019. This is one of the lowest rates in Europe. The average youth unemployment rate in Europe is 16%. The Scottish rate is also lower than the UK average rate of 12%.
- However, Scotland’s relatively good performance in terms of youth employment does not hold good for young disabled people. Six months after leaving school young disabled people are twice as likely to be Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) than their non-disabled peers[ii]. By age 19 young Scots disabled people are three times as likely to be NEET[iii].
- Young care leavers, who are twice as likely to be NEET at age 19 than non-care leavers, rightfully get early access to the Job Start Grant (£250). This means that they do not need to have been unemployed and in receipt of qualifying benefits for 6 months before becoming eligible for the grant and they can apply for the grant up to the age of 25. There is no specific JSG for young disabled people who can apply to the wider scheme but only if they have been out of work for 6 months or more and only up to the age of 24. However, young disabled people are three times as likely to be NEET.
- Being unable to secure work in the early years after leaving school can have a permanent impact on later employment prospects and earnings potential. This is because employers are unlikely to recruit someone with a CV showing several years unemployment and little or no work experience.
- This inability to secure work and the resultant poverty of living on benefits also has a scarring impact on young disabled people’s confidence, mental and physical health resulting in poor health and premature mortality and subsequent high public expenditure on social care, health, etc.
- The Resolution Foundation[iv] have predicted a rise in youth unemployment of around 600,000 across the UK. In 2019 Scottish “youth” (16-24 year old) unemployment represented around 6% of the UK total – this would suggest an increase in youth unemployment in Scotland of over 37,000.
- Young disabled people leaving school with no work experience will therefore be in competition for scarce jobs, and places on the Jobs Guarantee Scheme, with young non-disabled people with perhaps several years work experience. Therefore, it is imperative that the Job Guarantee Scheme recognises and addresses the disproportionate impact that this rise in unemployment is likely to have on young disabled people by prioritising their early access to the scheme and that is fully inclusive and accessible to them.
Scale of the Impact of Covid-19 on Disabled People’s Employment:
- The Institute of Fiscal Studies found that one third of employees in the bottom 10% of earners work in shut down sectors, compared to 5% in the top 10%[v].
- A survey of 6,000 people in England and Wales by Citizens Advice found that disabled people were at twice the risk of redundancy as non-disabled employees. One in four disabled people surveyed were facing redundancy[vi]. The situation is unlikely to be better in Scotland.
- Social Metrics Commission commissioned research, carried out by YouGov, of 80,000 participants also shows that disabled workers are at substantially higher risk of being made redundant or having their hours reduced due to the economic impact of the pandemic[vii].
The Devolved Employability Programme
- Before the devolution of Employability support funding the DWP’s UK-wide Work Programme was contracted out to private sector providers including Ingeus, Working Links, Maximus, Serco, A4E and G4S. No Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) were given contracts.
- Scotland’s devolved Employability service is Fair Start Scotland. It is delivered by a mix of private, public and third sector providers including the Wise Group (Third Sector), People Plus Ltd (Private), Start Scotland Ltd (Private & Third Sector Partnership) and Falkirk Council (Public Sector). The majority of contracts were awarded to the private sector. No DPOs were awarded contracts.
- Before the devolution of Employability funding to Scotland just 5% of long-term disabled people in the ESA WRAG group (Employment Support Allowance, Work Related Activity Group) on the Work Programme obtained employment that lasted 13 weeks or more[viii].
- In terms of outcomes for Scots disabled people it appears that just under 5% of all those referred to Fair Start Scotland were disabled people who were still retained in employment 3 months after starting work.[ix]
- As can be seen the performance of the devolved Employability, Fair Start Scotland service was barely better than the Work Programme. This may be because of a continued reliance on mainly private sector providers who have regularly a record of failing to move disabled people into work.
- In contrast employability schemes run by Disabled People’s Organisations such as the internship programmes run by Glasgow Centre for Inclusive Living and Inclusion Scotland have a much high higher success rate in placing disabled people in employment and supporting them in sustaining it.
- DPO provided employability support not only works with disabled people but with employers. Work is carried out to identify and address any barriers to disabled people’s recruitment in the advertising of posts, in the interview process, when they start employment and throughout the placement. By anticipating physical and informational barriers and supporting employers to address them ingrained attitudinal barriers held by employers can also be overcome.
- However, when DPOs have applied to be partners in larger employability contracts they are often caught in a Catch 22 situation. On failing to secure a contract they are informed that their own employability programmes are small, and they have no experience of delivering larger scale schemes – but how are they to obtain such experience unless they are awarded a larger contract?
- The Scottish Government have announced £100 million of additional funding for employability work to assist people to move into work or to retrain. The package of support will see at least £50m of that funding set aside to help young people get into work. Accompanying the funding was an announcement that the Fair Start Scotland scheme has been extended for a further 2 years. More needs to be done to ensure that this money makes a difference, by involving DPOs in the programme.
- Inclusion Scotland believes that if Fair Start Scotland is to improve on its current poor success rate with disabled job-seekers it needs to work in partnership with DPOs who could provide insights into their experience and practice in supporting successful work experience placements. Such partnership work needs to be properly resourced and funded and therefore a portion of the £50 million in additional funding for Fair Start Scotland needs to be apportioned for the involvement of DPOs in providing Employability support to disabled people.
Mainstream Employability Support and involvement
- The Scottish Government have announced help for those at risk of redundancy due to Covid-19, ‘fair flex’ trained advisors, support for businesses, help for working from home and plans to work with others to help align the employability. frameworks.
- These are all useful steps to take. However, it is imperative that disabled people and our DPOs are fully part of the decision making, planning, design and delivery of these programmes and changes if disabled people are to benefit equally from them.
If you have any questions on this briefing, or for further information, contact:
Bill Scott, Senior Policy Advisor
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 0131-467-8991
[i] “Employment Among Disabled People”, JRF, 2020 https://www.jrf.org.uk/data/employment-among-disabled-people – based on Labour Force Survey averages.
[ii] “Consequences, risk factors, and geography of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET): Scottish Longitudinal NEET study”, Scottish Government, 2015
[iv] “Class of 2020 ”, Resolution Foundation, May 2020 https://www.resolutionfoundation.org/publications/class-of-2020/
[vi] “Parents, carers and disabled at twice the risk of redundancy”, Citizens Advice, August 2020, https://www.yourmoney.com/household-bills/parents-carers-and-disabled-twice-as-likely-to-face-redundancy/
[vii] “Poverty and Covid-19”, Social Metrics Commission, August 2020 https://socialmetricscommission.org.uk/poverty-and-covid-2/ .
[viii] “Spartacus ESA Mythbuster”, Centre for Welfare Reform, July 2015 – Figures obtained from an analysis of DWP statistics of the percentage of attachments to the Work Programme that achieve a Job Outcome (i.e. 13 weeks of sustained employment) from June 2011 to March 2015.
[ix] Figures based on statistics reported in “Scotland’s Devolved Employment Services: Statistical Summary”, Scottish Government, August 2020 https://www.gov.scot/publications/scotlands-devolved-employment-services-statistical-summary-7/