‘Work’ for disabled people – where exactly is that coming from?


International Symbol of Access

International Symbol of Access

Most disabled people are NOT wheelchair bound

Oh yes, disabled people have been in the news again. Good news, you might ask? Oh no. that never seems to happen, does it?

What this time then? Well a major spat has arisen because Oxbridge educated Baron David Freud the Government Minister for Welfare Reform was recorded saying that “some disabled weren’t worth the minimum wage” (£6.50 /hr) but deserved perhaps £2 per hour?).

A lot of the flack is a bit unfair really – the guy was trying to deal with a serious issue, but the words out of his mouth were the wrong ones, so were easily pounced-upon by others for gratuitous political points.

The man who caused the current furore was once a City powerhouse. Indeed a man who has boasted in a ‘morally ambiguous’ book of being a major institutional conman (legal at the time!)– persuading investors to lose their shirts (millions of pounds) on share investments in say Eurotunnel and Euro-Disney. Perhaps NOT just the kind of person to draft into Government in a role like ‘benefits’ where trust might be a valuable asset, you might think? [He is responsible there for Universal Credit, Housing Benefit. Benefit cap (a limit on the total amount of benefit people can get), the Social Security Advisory Committee, Credit unions, Mental health review, the Health and Work Service, Bereavement benefits]

He made a major & surprising error for a clever clogs, since the problem is not really about PAY is it? The REAL issue here is that some eighty thousand disabled people aren’t in work, can’t get work, and no work is available to them, isn’t it? The majority of us in Britain’s population are neither disabled, nor have a disabled relative in the family, so we are ‘all right Jack’ aren’t we?

In the UK employers are required ‘not to discriminate’ against the disabled, but they certainly are not required to employ any – and in the main they don’t!

Why then should we concern ourselves about our disabled fellow citizens? Perhaps because we are a caring nation? Perhaps because we are a charitable community? Perhaps because we should feel sorry for them? None of that!

The physically & mentally disabled need to be treated as equals in our society. OK, they might not be able to run as fast as some, but neither can our overweight neighbours. They might not be as physically mobile as some, but neither are our nearly old. They might not be as clever or bright as some, but most of us are not Oxbridge educated are we? Many disabled people nevertheless possess significant skills and experience, are particularly hard working, so in many different fields employing disabled people can add a most useful value to the workforce – so why isn’t it happening then?. The London Paralympics two years ago amazed, astounded, and motivated the British nation in support of disabled athletes, and more importantly raised the profile of disabled people in a most positive manner – but our powers that be haven’t capitalised on that or used that momentum for any important steps forward, have they?

Surely, disability has to be recognised as a fact of life and properly accommodated in our lifestyle? Most people are disabled through ‘no fault of their own’. They are surely entitled to as full a life as possible aren’t they? Oh yes, we have made major steps forward in the UK over past decades in providing disabled toilets, disabled access, disabled facilities in public places, and of course disabled parking arrangements. But people have a natural ambition to work, to earn a living indeed, to prove to be a contributory member of our society no less (and even pay taxes!). But how have well have we done there then? Dreadfully?

Disabled people struggle to get jobs. That is because firms can’t be bothered to make the effort to employ them do they? They have no incentive either do they? You see some effort indeed might be required – for example a competent blind worker can do invaluable computer work if provided with suitable adaptations to overcome their sight disability (that factor applies in many disability cases). If you are a worker yourself, just look around your environment and gauge how committed your employers are in taking on disabled people and using their talents, and then ask yourself “is it enough?”

Our governments have set a disgracefully bad example to industry haven’t they? We have a DPP organisation called Remploy that looks out for disabled people to provide employment opportunities through placements and work in their own factories. These ‘government supported’ factories are being progressively closed and the current Coalition Government has already in four years closed dozens of them – with a few thousand jobs going down the pan. Oh yes, this is on the premise that the money is better spent on getting the disabled into mainstream workplaces – fine, but that doesn’t happen does it?


[We got a ‘Minimum wage some fifteen years ago (despite the lying scaremongering opposition of the Conservatives, the CBI, and the like) – not enough though as it needs to be a ‘Living wage’ – and we now need urgently a ‘Disabled employment quota’, bolstered by grants and the like to firms for equipment, and tax breaks et al, to get the show on the road – it’s not rocket science is it?].


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