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 workcompared 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: http://www.employment-studies.co.uk/