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.
Leonard Cheshire, the leading UK disability charity, has warned that unemployment among disabled people could see a sharp rise this Autumn/Winter.
However, it also said the government could avert such a crisis if it provided the right support in its Comprehensive Spending Review, with submissions due before 24 September.
In a specific ‘Plan for Jobs’ for disabled people, the charity recommends:
• 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
This is in tandem with a Leonard Cheshire campaign currently encouraging supporters to write to the Chancellor asking that disabled people are put at the heart of the UK’s economic recovery.
The charity also argues that the continuation of its 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 opens to new applications on 23 September.
Leonard Cheshire is 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.”