The calling of a snap General Election on 8th June has taken many by surprise. Although the General Election provides an opportunity for the new government to build a more inclusive society, there is also a very real risk that the momentum built to address issues such as closing the disability employment gap will be lost.
If this happens, the 23% of disabled men and 19% of disabled women who are economically inactive but want to work, could move even further away from the labour market.
Shaw Trust therefore urges all political parties to not just focus on Brexit during their General Election campaigns. With the disability employment gap remaining stubbornly static at 32 percentage points, people with mental ill health having fewer opportunities to enter and remain in work, and young disabled people struggling to transition from school to work, social policy issues alongside Brexit should be the cornerstone of each political party’s manifesto.
1. Don’t forget about closing the disability employment gap: There are 3.5 million disabled people who are not in work. Many of those people may not be able to work. But for those who can and want to work, the new government should ensure that bridging the disability employment gap remains a policy priority.
2. There should be a national disability strategy: Issues as wide ranging as the accessibility of public transport, access to health and social care, affordable housing, alongside the effectiveness of pre and post-employment support, all affect the abilities of disabled people to live independent and inclusive lives. The new government should develop a national disability strategy to implement an integrated and inclusive approach to creating a more equal society for disabled people.
3. There should also be a comprehensive national careers strategy ensuring that children, young people and adults can receive robust careers advice at each stage of their careers. This is particularly important for young disabled people with special educational needs, to ensure they have the support needed to transition from education to work.
4. Continue commitment to those with mental ill health: The Improving Lives green paper, alongside a number of new European Social Fund (ESF) projects, have committed to focusing on improving employment outcomes for people with mental ill health. As just 32% of people with mental ill health are in employment, it is essential that this commitment to funding specialist programmes or trialling new and innovative ways of working continues into the new parliament.
5. Retain social funding: The European Union will invest £5,822 million in the ESF 2014-2020 programme. Funding from ESF is used by many voluntary sector organisations to deliver a range of training, employment and health and wellbeing support to vulnerable groups across the UK. Without this funding, programmes such as specialist disability employment programme, Work Choice, may not have existed. Many voluntary organisations would also not be able to reach as many vulnerable individuals and communities without ESF. Shaw Trust therefore urges the new government to commit to creating a UK social fund post Brexit, to support projects aimed at driving social inclusion, and to ensure that the UK voluntary sector is able to thrive. Although addressing Brexit is important, so is ensuring that everyone is the UK has the opportunity to fully reach their potential.
Although addressing Brexit is important, so is ensuring that everyone is the UK has the opportunity to fully reach their potential. The election could cause the current momentum and commitment to addressing social inclusion issues like the disability employment gap to be lost. It is therefore imperative that political parties and the new government put social inclusion at the heart of their policy agendas.