Leonard Cheshire has answered Rishi Sunak’s call for creative thinking by saying the government should introduce ‘Purple Passports’ and extend furlough to avoid a winter jobs crisis for disabled people. The disability charity explains what needs to be done and how these measures could benefit disabled people.
We at Leonard Cheshire exist to support individuals to live, learn and work as independently as they choose, whatever their ability.
With the furlough scheme ending this month, we have warned that unemployment among disabled people could see a sharp rise this autumn and winter.
However, we have also said the government could avert such a crisis if it provides the right support in its Comprehensive Spending Review.
In our ‘Plan for Jobs’ proposal, we recommend:
- Funding new ‘Purple Passport’ documents for disabled people, outlining the support they need in the workplace. The ‘Purple Passport’ scheme would bring the UK into line with countries like Canada.
- Extending the furlough scheme for working people who are shielding to help them retain their jobs.
- Giving all employees entitlement to Statutory Sick Pay and flexible working on day one of employment.
- Employers reporting on the numbers of disabled people they employ and for large employers to report on the disability pay gap.
- Abolishing the five-week wait between claiming Universal Credit (UC) and receiving payments while topping up the Employment Support and Disability Support Allowances to deal with Covid-19 related hardship.
Help and support for disabled people
The above is in tandem with our campaign encouraging supporters to write to the Chancellor asking that disabled people are put at the heart of the UK’s economic recovery.
We also argue that the continuation of our pioneering disabled student internship programme, Change 100, during the pandemic, shows that employers can adapt to avoid freezing out disabled jobseekers. Many interns were able to complete placements, and the programme is now open to new applications.
We are also calling for the government to create a disability-inclusive industrial strategy, to ensure that disabled people benefit from economic growth. The 2017 Industrial Strategy did not outline how disabled people would be included in future growth.
Gemma Hope, Director of Policy at Leonard Cheshire, said: “For disabled people, the squeeze on jobs is not a distant prospect on the horizon, it’s already here.
Employment advisors at our charity have reported a rapid spike in competition for jobs, leading employers to hike requirements for even entry-level positions. This will make the jobs market extremely challenging for someone without a conventional CV.
As in most downturns, disabled people risk being among the hardest hit. But the government can shift the narrative with the same bold approach as it took early in the pandemic, with novel measures to deal with our ‘new normal’.
This need not be a winter of discontent for disabled people if the government takes the right actions to protect livelihoods.”
Purple Passports, or ‘adjustment passports’, are a record that identifies the reasonable adjustments, modifications, and equipment a disabled person has received in education and work.
Currently, when a disabled person moves from education to work, they lose access to support from education providers and need to apply to Access to Work to obtain any assistance or equipment.
Similarly, when a disabled person changes jobs, they need to reapply to Access to Work for support. An adjustment passport would outline the support an individual requires.
Joined up workplace adjustments are something that the Canadian government has introduced through its accessibility strategy for public services.
‘Nothing About Us Without Us – An accessibility strategy for the public services of Canada’ introduces these passports at public sector bodies in Canada, and is currently being trialled at the Department of National Defence.
Statutory Sick Pay and flexible working
The Plan For Jobs proposal argues that an employee’s rights to flexibilities and reasonable adjustments, such as working hours and access to assistive technology, should be in place from day one of an individual’s employment. Currently, an employee may only request flexible working when they have been in post for 26 weeks.
The charity is also asking that eligibility for statutory sick pay (SSP) be extended to lower-paid workers, and that top-ups to payments made during the Covid-19 pandemic be made permanent to enable disabled people to stay in work.
Change 100 is a programme of paid summer work placements, professional development, and mentoring. It aims to remove barriers experienced by disabled people in the workplace, to allow them to achieve their potential. It is delivered in partnership with leading employers.
The programme is designed for talented students and graduates with disabilities or long-term conditions — including physical, visual, or hearing impairments, mental health conditions and learning disabilities.
By Leonard Cheshire
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