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Concerning disability unemployment rate needs urgent government action

Thousands of disabled employees have lost their jobs in the past year due to coronavirus, leading to calls for immediate government intervention.

According to the Office of National Statistics, since March 2020 670,000 people have lost their jobs and the number of welfare claimants has increased by 120%.

Disability charity Scope has warned that disability employment faces a ‘cliff edge’ due to the pandemic.

Its latest research found 48% of unemployed disabled people are concerned about their employment prospects for the rest of 2020 and 36% are concerned about being made redundant.

The charity has seen referrals for its employment support programme Support to Work increase by 65% year-on-year in June.

That figure then surged to 230% in September 2020.

More on disability employment:

Disabled people frozen out of work

Disability inclusion starts with HR

Supported employment: It's not charity

As the national furlough scheme transitions to the Job Support Scheme (JSS) at the start of November, Scope has urged government not to forget disabled people.

James Taylor, executive director of strategy, impact and social change at Scope, also advised HR leaders to make sure their processes are accessible.

He told HR magazine: “We’d recommend measuring the number of disabled people employed and asking disabled employees’ opinion on how well the company is creating an inclusive workplace. And back that up with training for line managers to become confident about how to support disabled people.

“Most companies review what they do all the time. It’s about using some of these strategies and tactics to assess how they support disabled people, and then based on what they learn, create an action plan to become even better employers.”

Virgin Media has partnered with Scope to help more disabled people into work. Its chief operating officer Jeff Dodds said that the employer had taken a number of steps to transform the experience for disabled employees and customers, including having board-level accountability and updating HR policies.

Speaking to HR magazine, he added: “I have seen first-hand the benefits of employing disabled people, who bring diversity of thought, determination, and creativity to the workplace.

“I’d urge businesses to do all they can to support disabled people - particularly during this very challenging time. This includes joining our free #WorkWithMe programme which helps businesses become more inclusive employers of disabled people with information and practical advice on how to improve their workplace policies, practices and culture for disabled people.”

Scope’s research on disability unemployment was conducted through an online poll on YouGov with a total sample size 4,013 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 8 to 10 July 2020.