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National Disability Strategy fails to have desired impact

The government's National Disability Strategy, which hit its first anniversary this week, has so far failed to positively impact the lives of disabled workers across the UK.

Working with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the initiative was designed to offer more support to disabled people to help them find jobs and stay in work.

Fazilet Hadi, head of policy at Disability Rights UK, said it had so far failed to achieve positive outcomes as it lacked ambition.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: "The National Disability Strategy did include some limited measures to improve the employment of disabled people but the strategy was not radical or ambitious in its goals.

"This past year the government has reviewed the Disability Confident Scheme, consulted on improvements to flexible working, proposed improvements in the Access to Work Scheme and consulted on mandatory disability workforce monitoring. So far, we haven’t seen positive results from any of these actions."

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The strategy included commitments to making workplaces more accessible, collaboration with employers to increase opportunities for disabled workers, increasing disability workforce reporting, and offering more support to disabled people who wanted to start their own business.

In May this year, government also announced that there are 1.3 million more disabled people in work than there were five years ago, hitting its proposed target of one million five years ahead of schedule.

Hadi suggested that these figures may be skewed.

She added: "The government says that more than 1.3 million disabled people have joined the workforce since 2017, but our view is that these are people already in work, who now identify as disabled people.

"We have not seen either the disability employment gap or the disability pay gap narrow."

The strategy was deemed unlawful by the High Court back in January, due to a lack of consultation with disabled people.

Louise Rubin, head of policy at disability equality charity Scope said that disabled workers are already at a disadvantage, and they need to know how the government is going to help to level the playing field.

She told HR magazine: "Getting a job is tougher if you are disabled. Scope has heard from disabled people who have had to apply for hundreds of jobs and who have been continuously overlooked by employers. Those who are in work often struggle to progress.

"The disability employment gap – the difference between the rate of employment for disabled people compared to the public – is just over 28 percentage points. And it’s hovered at this level for over a decade.

“With the National Disability Strategy in limbo, disabled people will want to know what the government is doing to support them through difficult times. Disabled people are being hit hardest by the worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation. It's clear that the government needs to take urgent action to make sure that disabled people have the support they need to stay and thrive in work, and we need answers quickly.”