Worklessness across the UK is shrinking and shifting in profile, with big improvements in single parent employment, but over half of workless households (54 per cent) now contain one or more disabled people. These findings are part of a new report published today (Sunday) by independent think tank the Resolution Foundation, following Government plans to make reducing worklessness a legal target.
The report finds that the proportion of workless households has fallen by a quarter (25 per cent) since 1996, and the number of children in workless households where neither parent is disabled is at a record low of 150,000. It shows that this fall has been driven by rising parental employment, particularly among single parent households where worklessness has fallen by two-fifths (40 per cent) since 1996.
However, progress has been far slower for disabled households. The report finds that almost three in five children (59 per cent) who have a single disabled parent live in a workless household, the highest rate of worklessness across all disabled family types. Over a quarter of children (27 per cent) with two disabled parents are in a workless household, which falls to 10 per cent for children where only one parent is disabled. Just 3 per cent of children with two non-disabled parents live in workless households.
While work is not suitable for all disabled people, the Foundation says that moving into work is a key way to boost living standards and that breaking the significant barriers for disabled people will give more of them the option to go into work. Making progress on disabled employment is essential to further reduce worklessness and get the UK closer to full employment – both key government targets. An upcoming Resolution Foundation report will set out a wide ranging policy response that would improve employment chances for disabled people.
Today’s report argues that the government must use the template of policy intervention that led to falling worklessness among parents to boost prospects for disabled people. However it adds that the three key strands of policy intervention that worked for parents – financial support (tax credits), requirement on employers (right to return to work following maternity leave), and conditionality (job search conditions but tied to practical support) – will need a rethink to provide more effective support for the disabled. For instance Work Programme provision for disabled people has been relatively unsuccessful, and determining whether a person is capable of work in the Employment Support Allowance regime has had numerous implementation issues.
David Finch, Senior Economic Analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said “Reaching full employment is a key priority for the government, but to secure this it must switch its focus on worklessness from parents to disabled people.
“It’s important that the successes of the past are maintained, but with only 250,000 non-disabled parents that we may expect to work still living in workless households, the scope for vast improvement here is limited. Conversely, households with a disabled person now account for more than half of all workless households.
“A combination of financial support, requirements on employers and conditionality has helped huge numbers of parents – in particular single parents – return to work over the last two decades. The government should fundamentally rethink the current combination of policies for disabled people to give more of them the chance to stay in or enter work.”