If even the DWP isn’t Disability Confident, how will a million disabled people get jobs? – Bernadette Meaden

Nobody would expect a person who suffers blackouts to drive a bus or bin waggon once they had thought through the potentially devastating consequences. But political, cultural, psychological and financial coercion is being used to force sick and disabled people to work – the government continues to cut welfare, which was calculated originally to cover only the costs of meeting basic needs.

Cruel sanctions and strict, inflexible, often unreasonable behavioural conditions are being imposed on lifeline benefit receipt, adversely affecting some of our poorest and most vulnerable citizens; unemployed and disabled people are being stigmatised by the government and the media – all of this is done with an utterly callous disregard of a person’s capacity to work, and importantly, the availabilty of appropriate and suitable employment opportunities, and this can often have tragic consequences.

Modern employment practices, which have an increasingly strong focus on attendance micromanagement, present yet another barrier for disabled people who want to work.

The following is taken from an excellent article which was posted on Bernadette Meaden’s blog, on January 16, 2016.

The numbers of disabled people in ‘absolute poverty’ (unable to meet their basic needs) has risen steeply following welfare reforms. Yet in his most recent party conference speech Iain Duncan Smith said to disabled people, “We won’t lift you out of poverty by simply transferring taxpayers’ money to you. With our help, you’ll work your way out of poverty.”

The recent case  of a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) employee sacked for taking time off for illness illustrates a truth that the government does not acknowledge. Modern employment practices often appear to be incompatible with its aim of getting sick and disabled people off disability benefits and into work.

In this particular case it was reported that after working at the DWP for thirty four years, Ms Powell, who has a disability, fell foul of its sickness absence procedure, whereby formal action is taken against employees after eight days absence, or four spells of absence within a 12-month period.

‘Health problems meant that Ms Powell was frequently off sick. As some of her absences were related to a disability, her trigger point was adjusted from the usual eight to 12 days. However, Ms Powell later went over her allotted 12 days’ absence by a few days, and she was dismissed.’

A year earlier, a DWP whistleblower had revealed :

“Attendance management continues to get more draconian and sackings have become a regular occurrence: a recent guideline instructed managers to consider dismissal for staff off work for longer than 28 days regardless of the reason.”

So despite its own Disability Confident campaign, which calls on employers to “help improve employment opportunities for disabled people and retain disabled people and those with long term health conditions in your business”, the DWP itself seems unable to provide employment for people who may have long or frequent spells of illness. This would suggest that if you have, say, a long term fluctuating health condition, or a disability that requires frequent hospital appointments, you will find it very difficult to keep a job at the DWP.

Of course the DWP is not alone in this. We know that in some workplaces the pressure to attend even when very ill is overwhelming. At the Sports Direct warehouse, for instance, it was reported that over a two year period, 76 calls for an ambulance had been made, with 36 cases classed as ‘life-threatening’ including strokes, convulsions and breathing problems. One woman gave birth in the toilets, and employees said they were too frightened to take time off when they were ill, in case they lost their job. The employment agency that supplied staff to the warehouse had a ‘six strikes and you’re out’ policy, where a strike could include being off sick, or taking ‘excessive or long toilet breaks’. Very few people with a long term health condition would find it possible to keep their job in these circumstances. 

The reality is that in a fiercely competitive economy and austerity-driven government departments, there is very little room for anyone who has a long term health problem. Perhaps somebody in the government should do a little experiment. Try applying for jobs and declaring a long-term illness or disability which may require regular absences. See how easy it is to get a job.

You can read the rest of Bernadette’s excellent article here.

The new Work and Health Programme: the government plan social experiments to “nudge” sick and disabled people into work

13 thoughts on “If even the DWP isn’t Disability Confident, how will a million disabled people get jobs? – Bernadette Meaden

  1. Yep, I know that all too well. Have Cystic Fibrosis and having to have time off for hospital appointments or admissions I have struggled gaining any employment, although I couldn’t hold down a physical job now but jobs I applied for I could have done and I even offered to work whilst in hospital, still no luck. Tesco (Winchester, Hampshire) forced me out when I worked for them in the online department (Dot Com) ad openly discriminated against me, they admitted this fact often by saying that my health is not suitable for this that and the other, including a job in what was to be the new Opticians department where I could have put my Business Degree to some use and trained further, it would have also put less pressure on my health and as a result mean less time off due to illness but after they said I would most likely get the internal transfer they U-Turned and said my health is too much of an issue and they gave the job to someone else, then back tracked and said a better candidate came along.

    They ended up forcing me out when my late wife was in hospital dying of cancer and told me I have two choices:

    1. Come back to work and leave her in hospital on her own (she was in end stage with maybe a week or so left)

    2. Quit the job

    I said I wasn’t leaving her and they said we take that as your verbal resignation, although I didn’t actually agree they just sent me my P45 and that was it. Whilst at Tesco (2007 to 2010) I was bullied, harassed (not just by the management but by some of the other staff members too which management aloud), verbally abused, constantly pulled in the office, threatened with my employment ending, told I can’t keep taking time off, discriminated against and more.

    So I can believe since then the situation has got a whole lot worse.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I believe the DWP know people with health conditions and women who are pregnant are unlikely to get jobs because they instruct such people to try to conceal the situation and to outright lie if asked. And they’ll sanction people if they find out they have been honest at interviews about health matters which may discourage employers from employing them.

    I know of a pregnant woman on JSA who was told not to tell a company she applied to that she was pregnant.

    The problem is, if you tell them you risk being sanctioned if the DWP find out, but if you don’t tell them, you leave yourself open to being sacked for not being honest with the company, at which point the DWP will decide you were responsible for losing your job and will wash their hands of you.

    The way the system works at the moment is sickening. It’s a lose/lose situation for everyone except our evil overlords.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi, thank you for this blog!
    I know this is an old post but I’ve only just come across it.
    So true about the Disability Confident con. And the lose lose situation for disabled people in work or on benefits. Too many ppl who can’t work found fit to work. And disabled ppl in work forced out. You’re either too disabled or not disabled enough.

    I’ve been writing about this experience here: https://starfishmainlyobeys.wordpress.com/2019/02/01/doublespeak/

    Liked by 1 person

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