Belfast Telegraph

Planned cuts mean fewer disabled people will get help finding a job, says report

Fewer disabled people will have access to specialist employment support amid a "massive gap" between the Government's rhetoric and reality, a report warns.

A study said proposed cuts in funding mean that 45,000 fewer disabled people will have help finding a job.

The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) said schemes set to replace the Government's flagship employment programmes will be "dramatically" smaller.

The trade body for firms providing Government employment schemes said "damage" caused by funding cuts could worsen if European Social Fund support is not fully replaced beyond 2020.

The size of the new programmes means that 45,000 fewer disabled people will be allowed on to specialist employment provision in each remaining year of this Parliament, said the ERSA.

Chief executive Kirsty McHugh said: "The size of the new Work and Health Programme means only one in eight disabled people who want to work will have specialist help to do so.

"As a society, we have an obligation to ensure that appropriate support is available and today's report shows that we are in danger of failing disabled people and their families.

"We know that good quality frontline provision can provide help to more disabled jobseekers, but only if it is given the funding to do so.

"Turning the Government's plans into more than words would be good for businesses, communities, disabled people and the economy - let's make sure it happens."

Matthew Oakley, director of WPI Economics, which conducted the study, said: "If the Government is serious about its ambitions on disability employment, it needs to take bold action now.

"A vital first step should be to reverse decisions made by the previous chancellor and double the number of disabled people with access to specialist employment support in this Parliament.

"Although this will not alone halve the disability employment gap, it will send a clear signal of the Government's intent and could lead to 30,000 more disabled people in work and net benefits to the Exchequer of £280 million."

The report was published ahead of the Work and Health Green Paper.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "Getting more disabled people into work and halving the disability employment gap is one of our top priorities.

"Around 365,000 more disabled people are in work compared to 2014, which is great news but there is more to do.

"That's why we're increasing support in job centres, investing more in adapting workplaces for people with specific needs while our Work and Health Green Paper will be looking at how we can go even further."