Select Committee on Work and Pensions Minutes of Evidence


Other Considerations

  1.  The whole vexed question of definition has self-definition as an important sub-set of data gathering.

  Certainly the question of how disability is defined will be one of the key issues the focus will wish to address. We will be able to demonstrate that the estimates of the numbers covered by the term "disabled" can vary greatly depending on who is doing the assessment (the individual or some other person or organisation), the criteria that are used and the context in which the question is addressed.

  2.  A few years ago the Labour Force Survey made a simple order change to two questions dealing with health and disability and unexpectedly introduced a major discontinuity in the series.

Prior to 1997, LFS respondents were first asked if they had any health problem which would affect any kind of paid work they might do, and then whether it was expected to last more than a year. From spring 1997 the order was reversed, so they were first asked if they had a health problem which was expected to last more than a year, and then whether it affected any kind of paid work they might do.

  The result was a change in the estimate of the number of disabled people of working age in the UK from 5.5 million (in winter 1996-97) down to five million (in winter 1997-98).

I'm not entirely sure why the change was made. One suggestion so far it was due to concerns over the accuracy of the earlier measure (though it is not clear to me how changing the order would affect that).

  Why the order would result in such a large change is a question for a psychologist. The impact suggests that asking the more focused question first (does it actually affect what you can do at work—compared with asking respondents to assess the likelihood of it lasting over a year) must filter out more cases out than when the more subjective question is asked first.

3.   Reducing threshold

  There is some allied work to be done on the impact of reducing the threshold in terms of increasing demand for places for disabled people in work.

  And related reasons for increases in demand for placements in SEP (est increase of 40k?)

4.   Healthier in work

  It is well established that those in work are healthier, on average, than those who are not in work. (See, for example, the report of the Chief Medical Officer for Wales, 1997, Chapter 7 for a discussion of health and the workplace). One has to be careful about assuming the direction of causality, of course. In part this will be due to the fact that healthier people find it easier to get jobs, and in part because there are psychological benefits to being employed rather than unemployed. And it will not necessarily be true in all cases of course. Much will depend on the nature of the work.

  There is a great deal of research in this area (much of it funded by Department for Education and Employment, or Department for Work and Pensions these days) which can be found on the Internet on sites by organisations such as the Institute for Employment Studies:

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 13 June 2002