Prime minister Theresa May has announced plans to get a million more disabled people into work over the next 10 years.
The strategy, called ‘Improving Lives: the Future of Work, Health and Disability’, builds on last year’s Work, Health and Disability green paper, which called for a comprehensive change to the UK’s approach to disability employment.
The strategy includes plans to extend fit note certification beyond GPs to a wider group of healthcare professionals, including physiotherapists, psychiatrists and senior nurses, to better identify health conditions and treatments to help workers get back into their jobs faster.
People with mental health conditions will be helped by trained work coaches, and £39 million will be invested to double the number of employment advisors in an existing NHS programme treating people with depression and anxiety.
Additionally, there will be large-scale employment research pilots in the West Midlands and Sheffield to gather evidence to help improve employment services for those with health conditions.
May said that work can have a “hugely positive” impact on people’s lives. “The path a person takes in life and in work should not be dictated by their disability or health condition. Everyone deserves the chance to find a job that’s right for them,” she said. “I am committed to tackling the injustices facing disabled people who want to work, so that everyone can go as far as their talents will take them.
“We recognise the hugely positive impact that working can have on people’s health and wellbeing, which is why we are determined to break down the barriers to employment facing disabled people.
“This is part of building a country that is fit for the future and creating a fairer society; one that will make sure everyone can reach their potential.”
Mark Atkinson, chief executive of disability charity Scope, called for “swift action” to bring these plans to fruition.
“Too many disabled people continue to face barriers to entering, staying and progressing in employment, unable to fulfil their potential and participate fully in the UK economy,” he said. "The pledge to get a million more disabled people into work is an important gesture but today's publication needs to lead to swift action to make this a reality.”
The pledge comes after ONS figures from June 2017 revealed that disabled people were twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people. About 80% of non-disabled people are in work compared with just under 50% of disabled people.