In July 2018, the UK government launched a £4.2 million Challenge Fund to help tackle the UK’s disability employment gap. It’s part of a range of government measures that aims to see one million more disabled people in work by 2027.
In this article you will learn:
- Why the fund is needed
- How the fund aims to help people with disabilities and employers
- The potential benefits of the fund
The disability gap
Between April and June this year, only just over half of disabled people aged between 16 and 64 in the UK were employed, compared with over 81 per cent of people without disabilities.
Shockingly, this disability gap hasn’t changed much in over a decade. There’s simply not enough support available to include disabled people in the workplace, or help them keep a job.
Sarah Newton, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work says: “With 78 per cent of people acquiring their disability or health condition during their adult life, it’s crucial that we support disabled people who want to work to stay in or return to employment.”
Securing and staying in work
The Challenge Fund is a joint initiative between the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health and Social Care. It’s aimed at helping employers, charities, social enterprises, local authorities and health bodies across England, Scotland and Wales.
The scheme plans to fund around twenty initiatives to better understand disabilities in the workplace. These are specifically aimed at people experiencing mental health and/or musculoskeletal (MSK) issues.
One of the key areas is to give advice and support about what sort of work people with these disabilities might be capable of doing that would suit their needs and circumstances. The fund also aims to help disabled people who are in work progress within their job by increasing their ability to self-manage their conditions.
Testing new approaches
The fund plans to test out new approaches that can help employers and individuals break down some of the barriers for disabled people in their workplace.
For example, developing new solutions and ways of working that can boost participation of people with mental health or MSK conditions. And improving workplace systems that can strengthen and encourage communication and collaboration.
This is good news for employers, who are often wary of hiring people with disabilities. A recent poll revealed that as many as 22 per cent of employers admit to being less likely to hire a person with disabilities.
And research by the Centre for Social Justice, shows that 63 per cent of employers feel that there are significant barriers to employing someone with a disability, from concerns about their ability to do the job, to the potential costs of making adjustments.
This Challenge Fund sits alongside other government schemes like Access to Work that’s specifically designed to cover costs associated with making reasonable adjustments.
Minister for Mental Health and Inequalities Jackie Doyle-Price, says: “For too long if you had a disability or serious mental health issue the world of work was off limits, potentially affecting the lives of millions of people across the country. This fund will help people overcome the barriers that so many still face when trying to get into and progress in the workplace.”
Social and economic benefits
The UK economy could grow by £13 billion if disabled people were included. And workplaces across the country could benefit from the skills, experience and unique perspectives disabled people bring.
Initiatives like the Challenge Fund are a positive step towards creating workplaces for all. But whether it’s enough to bridge the disability gap remains to be seen.