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Job market challenge for disabled

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kevin's picture
Joined: 09/03/2009

As a week of BBC features looking at the issues facing people with disabilities - Access All Areas - continues, what challenges does the job market give disabled job-seekers?

Job hunting at the best of times can be a demoralising process. But if you are disabled and the country is in the midst of an economic downturn, then it can prove utterly pointless.

Richard Shakespeare is one such disabled person who's been through the ringer when it comes to the labour market.

Richard, who has cerebral palsy, lost his job in the complaints department of an internet bank just over a year ago. He set out to look for a new job with optimism and vigour.

But 1,923 applications later, he threw in the towel and decided to start his own business as a disability consultant.

"It was getting ridiculous," says Richard, "I was spending on average 50 or 60 hours a week looking for work."

He found the attitudes of employers not always very welcoming:

"I would arrive for an interview, and you could see almost a look of panic in the face of the receptionist."

Richard's case is not uncommon. Just 15 years after it became illegal to discriminate on grounds of disability in employment matters, the figures are still extraordinarily striking.

Workplaces adapted

The Office for National Statistics says 52% of disabled people between the ages of 16 and 64 are economically inactive. That compares to a figure of 23% for the general population - in other words, you are more than twice as likely not to have a job if you have a disability.

The figures are even higher for people with learning disabilities, while Action for Blind People estimates that 66% of visually impaired people of working age do not have a job.

Radar, the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation, estimates that 44% of disabled 19 to 21-year-olds are not in employment, education or training - the so-called Neets - compared to 23% for the non-disabled population.

Successive governments have recognised the difficulties disabled people face in getting work, and have established schemes such as Access to Work, which provides money to employers to help them pay for any adaptations to the work place.

But a number of charities have recently expressed concern that the Access to Work budget will not rise as planned by the previous government.

And there are also fears that now government departments have to fund any adaptations for disabled employees themselves, managers will be discouraged from hiring people with disabilities, for fear of the cost.

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kevin's picture
Joined: 09/03/2009

Some 90% of people surveyed by the BBC believe the government should provide funds to make the workplace accessible for people with disabilities.

But 40% felt disabled people turned down job offers even when they were physically capable of doing them.

The survey found that attitudes to disability and disabled people's rights varied between age groups and social groups.

Social groups

AB - senior managerial/professional

C1 - junior management, small business

C2 - skilled manual

DE - state pensioners, students, unemployed


People in lower income groups were found to be less compassionate on the issue of disability than skilled people, with older people sometimes more intolerant than the young.

Analysis from ComRes, which carried out the survey of 1,000 people in Great Britain, suggested people were very willing to acknowledge equal rights, but "very shallow" in their knowledge of what that involved.

The questions and results of the Disability Survey are set out below. A full breakdown of results is available on the ComRes website.<

People with disabilities often seem reluctant to work even if they are capable of doing a job<

ComRes analysis:

  • There are some stark differences by social group - 30% of people in social group AB agree, compared to 55% of people in social group C2.
  • People in the youngest age group stand out from others, with 54% of all 18-24 year olds saying that they agree compared to 35% of all people aged 55-64.
  • ComRes Chairman Andrew Hawkins says: "Clearly the results show that 40% of the public think that some people who are disabled are work-shy. But it doesn't mean that they think they are all lazy. Lumped into that 40% are doubtless some who believe there are those who are not genuinely disabled, so they are able to work and so are scamming the system. But equally, there is no evidence that the public thinks disabled people are lazy. It's more likely that they recognise that if people have been out of the job market for any length of time their confidence is likely to have suffered and they are likely to feel they are stuck in a rut."
It is right and fair for the government to make available whatever funds are necessary for disabled people to live independently.<

ComRes analysis:

  • There is little variance by any demographic type.
The Government should fund disabled people so that they can have access to workplaces<

ComRes analysis:

  • Broadly speaking, younger people are more likely to agree compared to older people age groups.
Government legislation to give disabled people access to work and independent living has gone too far<

ComRes analysis:

  • There is a clear split by social group - people in AB (19%) and C1 (26%) are notably less likely than people in social groups C2 (38%) and DE (30%) to agree with this statement.
  • The figure that 27% of people think legislation has gone too far suggests they see statutory demands as an imposition.