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This week's news: jobs, benefits, cancer

Damon Rose Damon Rose | 11:12 UK time, Friday, 15 July 2011

This week's disability news is, again, dominated by jobs and benefits.

On Monday the government launched a consultation off the back of Liz Sayce's report on specialist disability employment programmes after publishing their response which broadly accepts the findings.

Let's look at the meat of the report. Sayce, chief exec of the campaigning charity Radar, acknowledges that the Access to Work scheme is one of the government's "best kept secrets" and is cheaper and more effective than sheltered work in Remploy factories. On average, ATW costs £2,600 per person whereas some factory placements cost around £27,000 per person and can be low on productivity to boot. Undoubtedly these are compelling figures.

Some may be wondering if the government's acceptance of the report is about progress, money or a happy collision of both? It's a new world and disabled people should not work in segregation is the central message. In a comment piece in The Guardian this week, Liz Sayce put the full case for the personalised approach:

A Job Centre computer screen

"Disabled people's aspirations have changed. We want the opportunity to work in every sector from hairdressing to engineering, to "get in" through apprenticeships and work experience, and to "get on": progress in our careers and set up our own enterprises. We want to contribute to the economy. The only adjustment
most of us need is a fair chance, or low cost flexibilities (such as not travelling in rush hour) - but some need support, extra training or equipment. The support must focus on the person so we can move from job to job and take our support with us."

A lot of disabled people instinctively like the idea of workplace inclusivity and employers are seemingly becoming more open to hiring disabled people albeit slowly.

So, how can we speed this up?

Well, Sayce suggests that ATW recipients and funding need to double and, as there is no new money available for this, money could be found by withdrawing the funding from Remploy's factories and also residential training centres.

BBC News reports that the GMB union is unhappy that 54 factories may close with 2,800 people potentially put "on the dole".

But Sayce's review was broadly popular with disability organisations like Mind, Mencap and the Disability Alliance; separate special employment has long been unfashionable.

Are there unintentional casualties in this plan, though? The consultation aims to find out.

It's clearly important for government to be looking at employment solutions for disabled people if they are also forcing essential council services to end, are changing the rules on Employment Support Allowance and cutting benefits like Disability Living Allowance by 20%.

And on that thorny subject of DLA turning into PIP (Personal Independence Payments), and possibly evaporating for some, charity reps met with Minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller, recently but are reportedly unsatisfied because their agenda seemingly hit the floor. Again.

Chief Exec of Scope Richard Hawkes, who was not at the aforementioned meeting, said: "How can you decide that [a reform] is going to save 20% in advance? I would think that this is driven by cost reductions, and that they have come up with a way of assessing people that will result in the cost savings they want to make,"

Maria Miller told The Guardian that reform needs to happen because the present benefit, DLA, has no ongoing assessment of how good or bad you are at a given point. "Little wonder there are £600m of overpayments and £190m of underpayments," she said.

Other headlines this week

Health charity says four in 10 people will get cancer (BBC News)

Has Lady Gaga finally taken things too far? Singer is slammed by disability groups after performing on stage in a wheelchair (Daily Mail)

Doubling NHS spending is affordable (Telegraph)

Abuse inquiry at another Castlebeck owned care home in Bristol: staff suspended

Asthmatic mothers-to-be and their babies at greater risk of health complications (The Guardian)

Remploy factories for disabled workers could all close (The Guardian)

Comment: 'I don't like being a guinea pig - but I want that [cancer] vaccine' (Telegraph)

Southern Cross set to shut down and stop running homes (BBC News)

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