Memorandum submitted by Disability Rights
Commission (OP 07)
The Disability Rights Commission (DRC) is concerned
at the high rates of unemployment and economic inactivity of disabled
We believe that the underlying reasons are complex
and relate to the many barriersfinancial , physical, legal
and attitudinalfaced by disabled people at all stages in
relation to the labour market.
Jobcentre Plus needs to understand these barriers
and use this knowledge to provide a service which enables disabled
people to overcome these barriers, for example by ensuring that
disabled people are aware of all possible sources of financial
support both in work and out of work. Disabled people need to
feel confident that Jobcentre Plus is there as a source of support
and does not present its own barriers.
The DRC has two main concerns about the practical
operation of Jobcentre Plus:
1. That the element of discretion given
to staff in determining entitlement to incapacity benefit and
other benefits under the new regulations does not give rise to
discrimination against disabled people and a reduced right to
2. That the service and the offices are
fully accessible to disabled people.
IN addition the DRC believes that Jobcentre
Plus has a strong role to play in supporting the rights of disabled
people under current and future legislation.
1. The Disability Rights Commission was
created by the Disability Rights Commission Act (DRCA) 1999. Section
II of the DRCA imposes the following duties on the Commission:
(a) To work towards the elimination of discrimination
against disabled persons;
(b) To promote the equalisation of opportunities
for disabled persons;
(c) To take such steps as is considered appropriate
with a view to encouraging good practice in the treatment of disabled
(d) To keep under review the workings of
the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 and this Act.
2. The DRC wishes to bring about a society
in which all disabled people can participate fully as equal citizens.
3. The Disability Rights Commission notes
the alarmingly high rates of unemployment and economic inactivity
amongst disabled people. The facts speak for themselves:
The Labour Force Survey (Summer 2000)
show that the economic activity rate for people of working age
is 52 per cent for disabled people compared to 86 per cent for
The unemployment rate for disabled
people is around twice that for non-disabled people of working
age9.5 per cent compared to 5.0 per cent.
Disabled people are not only more
likely than non-disabled people to be unemployed; if they are
unemployed they are more likely to be so long-term.
The proportion of non-disabled people
who move into employment is about six times that of disabled people.
The difference is still four-fold, allowing for the fact that
some disabled people cannot, or do not wish to move into work.
One third of disabled people who
move into work are out of work again by the following year, compared
to one fifth of non-disabled entrants.
One in six workers lose their jobs
during the first year after becoming disabled.
The statistics above use International Labour
Organisation (ILO) definitions of economically active (those in
employment and those unemployed but seeking and available for
employment) and economically inactive (those who are either not
available for work, or not seeking it, or both).
4. The reasons behind the high rates of
economic inactivity and the high rates of unemployment amongst
disabled people are complex. The DRC's own analysis has identified
barriers to be overcome by disabled people at every stage in the
process of being available for work, gaining sufficient education
and training, looking for work, gaining and retaining work and
career progression. These barriers may be in the general environment
or within specific institutions such as colleges or the workplace.
The barriers may be physical, financial, legal or attitudinalor
any combination of these.
5. Given the very real problems experienced
by disabled people in gaining and retaining work and the consequent
high rates of economic inactivity and unemployment, the DRC was
disappointed to hear the Government's recent announcement on Incapacity
Benefit, in which the impression was given that Incapacity Benefit
(IB) claimants are allowed to claim this benefit indefinitely
without review opening up the possibility of fraud. This impression
is not borne out by the facts which show that:
The majority of IB claimants are
subject to regular review.
All new claims for IB are subject
to review at some point between the time span of six months and
As few as 0.5 per cent of IB cases
reviewed in a recent Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) report
(DWP Analytical Services Division 2001) were found to be fraudulent
giving rise to an annual overpayment of less than £19 million
out of a total expenditure of £6.3 billion.
6. Disabled people and their organisations
are understandably concerned that this negative view of disabled
people claiming IB has been translated into the policy and practice
of Work Focused Interviews (WFIs). Under the new Social Security
(Work focussed Interviews) Regulation 2001 attendance at WFIs
has become a condition of benefit for Incapacity Benefit, Severe
Disablement Allowance (SDA), Invalid Care Allowance (ICA) and
Bereavement Benefit. The WFI introduces the opportunity for discretion
on the part of Jobcentre Plus staff as to whether or not an interview
may be waived or deferred, for example on the grounds of ill-health.
The implication of this is that discretion of Jobcentre Plus staff
is now a factor in the delivery of, and eligibility for, certain
benefits namely IB, SDA, ICA and Bereavement Benefit. The DRC
can see the potential here for discriminatory attitudes and practices
to directly affect disabled people's rights to these benefits.
7. The Disability Rights Commission has
already voiced its concern, in a series of parliamentary questions
(01/6191-6194) about access for disabled people to Jobcentre Plus
offices and the training of staff in these offices, some of whom
will be carrying out WFIs. The DRC, with its statutory powers
to review and enforce the Disability Discrimination Act, would
like to see best practice implemented within Jobcentre Plus offices
to ensure that these offices meet and go beyond requirements under
Part III of the DDA. Without these standards of access to offices
and standards of good practice within interviews being met, Jobcentre
Plus offices will become another barrier to disabled people obtaining
the benefits they are entitled to and/or moving closer to the
8. The DRC would like to see Jobcentre Plus
offices undergoing access and service audits to ensure the best
possible standards of access to buildings and good practice on
the part of Jobcentre Plus staff.
9. Instead of Jobcentre Plus being seen
as a barrier to rights or opportunities by disabled people, the
DRC would like Jobcentre Plus to offer support to disabled people
to enable them to overcome the barriers outlined earlierphysical,
financial and attitudinal and legal.
10. Advice should be offered on all benefits
and other financial support available to disabled people in full-time
work, in part-time work, in education and training, when looking
for work and to those unable to work. There is evidence that disabled
people are unaware of a range of benefits and financial support,
such as DLA, tax credits and Access to Work.
11. Advice should be offered on practical
support available to disabled people in all positions in relation
to the labour market.
12. There is a role to play for Jobcentre
Plus in helping to break down barriers, by monitoring discrimination
on the grounds of disability amongst employers, training providers
and other agencies who have obligations under the Disability Discrimination
Act (Part II or Part III), the Special Educational Needs and Disability
Act 2001 and any other future disability equality legislation.
Jobcentre Plus should assist in informing clients of their rights
under existing legislation and should inform them of how to get
further help if they feel they have been discriminated against.
13. It is the view of the DRC that Jobcentre
Plus should also use its links with local employers to promote
duties under Part II of the DDA and promote good practice. In
addition, Jobcentre Plus could raise awareness of sources of support
for disabled people amongst local employers, such as the Access
to Work scheme.
DDA Policy Team