5.5 million people are in receipt of out-of-work benefits, the majority because they are disabled or have a long-term health condition. One in five economically inactive people, including 600,000 disabled people, want to work. But only one-in-ten out-of-work older and disabled people get help to find work each year. New research by Learning and Work Institute (L&W) has found that people who are unemployed are ten times more likely to be in work 6 months later than economically inactive people. Only 1% of people economically inactive due to long-term sickness are in work six months later.
Many economically inactive people don’t want to, don’t need to or can’t work, but one in five say they would like a job, some 1.7 million people. The Government’s new Universal Support programme is welcome but will only help an extra 1% of out-of-work disabled people annually, adding up to one percentage point to the employment rate of disabled people (the current gap with non-disabled people is 29 percentage points): it is a step forward, not a step change.
The UK’s employment rate is relatively high, but an 80% employment rate, an extra 1.2 million people in work, is achievable. Achieving this will require: extending employment support to more people; working with employers on recruitment and job design; and investing in social infrastructure like health, skills and childcare.
Sanctions are a sign of failure to engage people and should be an absolute last resort. We need to focus more on engagement than compliance.