The UK government recently released their response to the Sayce report – an independent commission charged with making recommendations for system reform to employment programs for persons with disabilities. A full consultation ran from July until October 2011 with 1,400 organizations and individuals responding. The government’s report reflects the responses from these consultations and lays out next steps.
Reforms will be made to existing programs. “Remploy” (a government-sponsored organization that has two arms – a sheltered workshop with 54 factories across multiple industries, and an employment service) will find cost savings, which will be re-directed into “Access to Work” and other programmes for persons with disabilities.
Remploy currently employs 2,200 workers with disabilities but is losing money at a time when government is trying to find ways to create more efficiencies in employment services. To find cost savings, the government is considering divesting some of Remploy’s factories to communities if they can be run without government subsidy; or they may also be dissolved.
Employees and family members want Remploy to operate “as is” because it provides a valuable employment opportunity for persons with disabilities in an environment where jobs are hard to find, and persons with mental health conditions will not be welcomed into mainstream employment.
Another major reform under consideration is to change the way funding is provided. Suggestions have included having the funding follow the individual. This proposal has met with mixed responses.
For the current spending period, the budget for specialized employment disability programs will be protected. A period of consultation will begin with persons that use these programmes to ensure that any reforms will meet their needs. This will further be entrenched in a disability strategy to be published in spring 2012. The consultation will make an effort to connect with under-represented groups such as persons with mental health conditions and small employers.
Reform proposals to Access to Work (which employed 35,000 disabled workers in 2010/2011 in mainstream employment) were generally greeted positively. However, there was a general lack of awareness of this program, and respondents suggested awareness-raising was a priority. A major concern raised was that this program lacked pre-employment training and was time-limited, and needed to include a host of employment activities including pre-employment and job placement.
See, “Disability employment support: fulfilling potential,” available at www.dwp.gov.uk.