What ACTUALLY would help with getting the long term unemployed, or sick and disabled back into work.

According to the social model of disability, disability is caused by society failing to accommodate a certain difference in ability. For example, if every building were perfectly wheelchair-accessible, then wheelchair users would no longer be disabled (just different). Image by MissLunaRose12 Wikimedia Commons

Background to this piece: Jeremy Hunt doesn’t rule out withdrawing benefits from claimants who have been assessed as unable to work due to ill-health.

“We have nearly 1,000,000 vacancies in the economy and nearly 3 million people who are either long term-sick and disabled or long-term unemployed,” Jeremy Hunt said.

“And that is bad for the economy that those businesses can’t grow, hiring the people they need, but it’s also really bad for individuals because we think that work is good for everyone.”

I can’t sleep, so here’s a thread about what actually would help with getting the long term unemployed, or sick and disabled back into work.

As you read this, remember: any or all of these only help some of us. Many people aren’t able to work under any circumstances… 

Meaningful discrimination legislation: Many people simply need employers with a better attitude to making available the reasonable adjustments mandated in law. It might be the law, but it means nothing because it’s fiendishly hard to enforce. 

Travel: airlines smash wheelchairs. Train stations don’t maintain their lifts. Bus drivers pull off without disabled passengers because they can’t be bothered to ask abled passengers to move. Taxis frequently decline guide dogs. Blue badge parking is disappearing. And so on…

Housing: No one thrives when they can’t shower, can’t cook, can’t go out, can’t get adaptations, etc. You might not think housing is an employment issue but it is, of course it is. Also the knock on impacts of things like damp or cold are disproportionate for the already sick. 

Education: Many of us have limited access to a good education because of access challenges. This, of course, impacts employability. Sort the training providers out, accept we may need a degree to even start if the entry level non-degree jobs are too physical, for example. 

Medicine: How are we meant to be as well as we can be when we can’t get near a GP for love nor money, Accident and Emergency is stacked out to standing room only when we do get sick, treatments are being cut for scores of conditions, and no one even wears masks? Of course we aren’t recovering! 

Mental health services: Support people to turn a corner and then see what happens. Instead the Tories closed day centres, replaced proper therapy with CBT (if any), limited medicines, made police hostile to distress, vilified and abandoned people who could otherwise recover. 

The #RightToLove: (see @BlokeOnWheels for this, it’s his campaign). A number of us could thrive in a stable marriage or partnership, but aren’t actually allowed one under the realities of the way the existing rules work. 

Editor: Extract from a petition (now closed):

Under current rules, people on ESA or UC risk losing some or all of our benefits if we find love and move in with a partner. This means that we have to choose either happiness or financial independence. These unfair rules have discouraged me from looking for love at any point in my life.More details

Disabled people on income-related benefits risk being left totally dependent on their partner if they move in together. This is because, when joint income is taken into account, their partner’s earnings or savings often exceed the limits for eligibility for income-related benefits

This rule applies even if the disabled person in the relationship cannot and won’t ever be able to work, meaning that they have no choice other than to hope their partner’s income is enough for them both to live on.

Environmental: Poor air quality disables asthmatics, etc. Open water swimmers say the habit helps manage depression and more [not possible with sewage-filled waters. Ed]. Rubbish on pavements can act as a barrier to wheelchairs or the blind. Traffic literally crashes into people and disables more of us. Clean up! 

Innovation: From two-handled ceramic mugs to crutches with a little shelf to support your knee for a rest, time and again I have seen one little invention transform someone’s ability. My gadget revelation was voice control lighting. Make a tax break for adaptive living solutions. 

Care: There is a national shortage of carers (because the job is hard, underpaid, unappreciated and stressful). Where they do exist, councils can’t afford to hire them (because of cuts). 

Financial security: We are paying for aids and adaptations and having to take expensive shortcuts like buying already cut-up vegetables rather than whole. We often use more power/water and have to pay for care or prescriptions. Disabled/sick people are the main users of foodbanks. Give us a chance! 

I’m finally tired, but I am sure there are many more.

Please write in and tell us if you have additions to make to the list editor@westcountryvoices.co.uk. We will pass them on to Louisa. You could also send this article to your MP.