Disabled people should be supported to find mainstream employment rather than “special” jobs in separate, sheltered workplaces, according to a new report.
The Supporting Sustainable Careers report by RADAR suggests ten “propositions” that would make it easier for disabled people to gain decent pay, career development opportunities, status and inclusion in society, and freedom from discrimination.
It concludes that in general – although not for every disabled person – open employment with the necessary support meets more of these “key factors” than other options, such as sheltered workplaces.
The report was funded by Remploy, which still employs about 3,000 disabled people in 54 sheltered factories, despite closing 29 factories as part of a controversial modernisation programme.
Tim Matthews, chief executive of Remploy, told Disability News Service at the report’s launch that he doubted whether there would be a long-term role for employment settings where there were “100 per cent disabled people congregating together”.
He said that “there may well be a place for sheltered factories in the future” but they would “increasingly” have to fulfil the criteria outlined in the report, such as providing career progression, offering “real jobs” that were not subsidised and being part of an inclusive workforce.
RADAR’s report also says that the continued existence of separate workplaces just for disabled people makes it harder to tackle bullying, harassment and discrimination in mainstream workplaces.
And it says disabled people should be offered extra support to keep their jobs – particularly in the light of current public spending cuts – because they face greater risks of long-term unemployment.
The highest priority, says the report, is to enable disabled people to achieve “career security” – building up the skills and experience to move from one job to another.
Liz Sayce, chief executive of RADAR, said: “In past recessions, disabled people have ended up living on benefits for decades.
“As public sector jobs are cut we need to stop that happening again – by using scarce resources efficiently on the type of employment support we know works.
“That means offering all disabled people the chance of a regular job as jobs come back on stream, help to get the skills the economy needs and pay that is at least the minimum wage. Everyone needs to raise their expectations of what disabled people can do.”
Researchers for the report talked to more than 50 disabled RADAR members, disability organisations, trade unionists and supported employment providers.
Among its other “propositions”, the report says disabled people should have the opportunity to manage and control their own job support, while more social firms should be led and managed by disabled people.
It also says that there is “no place” for sheltered work that contributes to the economy but offers less than the minimum wage, while businesses should only let contracts to social firms or supportive businesses that offer at least the minimum wage to their disabled employees.
And it calls for disabled volunteers to be offered career development support so they can move on to paid employment.