More than 430,000 disabled people fell out of work last year according to a new report from the disability charity Scope.

The report, A Million Futures is based on a survey of over 700 disabled adults, new analysis of employment figures, and the first hand experiences of disabled people and lifts the lid on disabled people’s experiences in the workplace.

Figures in the report show 91% of disabled people have worked at some point. But within two years of acquiring a disability, of those in work just 36% remain in employment.

The overwhelming message from disabled people is that having flexibility over their working time and practices is crucial – but it is not always available.

  • Almost half (48%) of unemployed disabled people said that flexible working would have helped them stay at work, but that they were not given this option
  • Nearly a third (31.8%) reported that they were not able to make the changes to their work area or work equipment that they needed
  • Over a third (36%) said that the option to modify their duties would have helped them to keep their job
  • Three quarters (76%) were unaware of, or had not received support from the Government’s Access to Work scheme which helps pay for practical support for people with a disability, health or mental health condition to stay in work, or find work

 “I fell ill after having been disabled for some years during which time I was on long term sick leave. It was at this point my former employer started treating me as a nuisance. I did not get any modifications to working hours or facilities when I returned and needed them, but [instead] ended up being made ‘redundant’ on the basis that I was unable to do my job anymore.” Jane, West Midlands

Last year just over 200,000 disabled people found work. But overall 45% of disabled adults are in work, which is more than 25% less than the rate for the total adult population (71%).

The charity argues that to close the employment gap for disabled people support for working disabled people to be given the same prominence as work to help unemployed disabled people find jobs.

Scope is calling for the introduction of flexible working policies and improved at-work support, so that valued employees who develop long-term conditions or who are disabled, are retained in the workplace.

To coincide with the report launch Scope is also publishing a new Q&A for employers and a series of blogs from disabled people and employment experts on how to improve workplaces.

Richard Hawkes, chief executive of the disability charity Scope said: “Disabled people are finding work – this is welcome news. But today’s report shows that a scandalously high number – some 430,000 – have dropped out of work last year. As a result the employment rate for disabled people remains alarmingly low. France, Germany and Canada all have higher rates.

“It’s now clear we’ve been blinkered in our approach to disabled people and work. At the moment all the focus is on getting unemployed disabled people into jobs. We need to look into how we can make work places more flexible, welcoming environments where disabled people flourish rather than struggle.

“We want to see a million more disabled people in work.

“There is a long way to go – we need to make sure more disabled people get access to expert, tailored support. We need to look how we can create more jobs.

“In terms of changing employer attitudes, the Government’s Disability Confident campaign is important. But we will continue to fail to improve employment rate as long as we continue to ignore the importance of what happens once a disabled person has a job.”


Retaining disabled employees

Scope is calling for the expansion of flexible working policies and improved at-work support, so that valued employees who develop long-term conditions or who are disabled, are retained in the workplace.

The charity argues that there is currently a lack of flexibility around the use of sickness absence. Many disabled people may need short periods of time to manage changes in their lives related to their disability – but many are forced to rely unnecessarily on full-time sick leave, despite wanting to remain in or return to work.

As a result, disabled people account for 60% of those on long-term sick leave.

Scope’s key recommendation is to give all employees, including disabled people, a new option to take a period of part-time ‘adjustment leave’, to help manage fluctuating conditions and enable people to attend medical appointments, without relying on full-time sick leave.

With enough flexibility in the policy, Scope argue that this  will reduce costs for employers by allowing them to retain productivity compared to having a staff member on sick leave,  reduce the number of staff moving onto full time sick leave, and retain employees.

Supporting disabled people into work

The report also looks at existing support offered to disabled people to help them get back to work and calls for the Government to introduce large-scale pilots of the use of personal budgets in employment support.  This is where disabled jobseekers are awarded a budget to choose the type of personalised support that is most likely to help them return to work, instead of being limited to receiving generic employment support.

Job creation

Scope says that the City Deals programme offers a key opportunity to create further jobs for disabled people.

The report highlights how one of the biggest opportunities within the City Deals structure is the ability to link skills training with demand for jobs in the local area – and that this can close the ‘skills gap’ between priorities for local business and training in the local area.

Scope is calling for these new areas of demand to be tailored to disadvantaged groups, including disabled people. The charity say this could help counteract changes in the labour market which are undermining people’s opportunities to benefit from growth.