Transcript of Liz Sayce and Maria Miller interview 11 July 2011
12th July 2011
LIZ SAYCE: Well firstly the support system is only currently serving 37,000 people in a year, that's the Access to Work programme, when there's, as you just said, over three million disabled people out of work. So what I'm wanting to see is a huge expansion really and an improvement in the Access to Work programme ... so it's personalised and basically disabled people can work in any job, any part of the economy, and have that personal support and attention that Chris was talking about just now. [a reference to a report about Chris Danes, a man with bipolar disorder who wants appropriate and flexible employment arrangements to help him work as he is laid low with severe depression every four weeks]
PETER WHITE: You're also saying you want to see a move towards disabled people in open employment rather than some of the sheltered schemes we've had like Remploy. But isn't that what the previous government was doing? haven't we been doing that, with less and less people working in what you might call the supported sector?
LIZ SAYCE: Well we still see quite a portion of budget for disability employment programmes going on the more 'supported businesses' kind of model. And what disabled people have said to me, and all the disability organisations have said, is, the model for the 21st century is not one that assumes you have one job for life, or that you're going to stay in manufacturing, you've got to have support that you can take with you because disabled people, like everyone else, want to move from one job to another, from one contract to another, and to be able to work in any part of the economy. So it's really a much more personalised system of support rather than supporting particular businesses.
PETER WHITE: With regard to Remploy, the fact is that the secretary of the trade’s council described your report as an absolute disgrace because it turns one group of disabled people against another group. I think clearly what he's got in mind is that, if there aren't jobs available in the unsupported sector, you do need to go on helping people.
LIZ SAYCE: Can I just be clear about what I'm recommending, which is that those businesses within remploy that could become viable businesses should be given really good support to do so. And there are some great models around of cooperatives and mutuals, and I'd really love to see those businesses transformed into that kind of process. I'm also recommending that there should be no changes without full involvement of employees and trade unions and that individual rights must be protected. And money must be kept - I'm pleased that the government has
said that money would be kept for disability and employment programmes. So this is not about neglecting the people currently working in remploy factories.
PETER WHITE: Let me bring in the minister Maria Miller. Do we really need another consultation? I mean, you're accepting these findings, aren't you?
MARIA MILLER: well what we heard from Chris earlier on is that disabled people want to be looked at for what they can do, not what they can't, and the consultation we're launching today is looking at one small part of a much bigger programme of work that we're undertaking to make sure that disabled people are judged for what they can do in the future ...
PETER WHITE> (interrupting) ... We also heard from Chris that he didn't feel supported - there wasn't link-up on between the people who were supposed to be advising him on employment and those people who understood his health needs.
MARIA MILLER: (appearing to appreciate that point) And what we've got at the moment is a very fragmented approach to the way we help disabled people. And that's why we asked Liz Sayce to undertake this review, and she's come forward with I think an important set of recommendations which, yes, we do need to consult on because there's some very important implications for disabled people and different organisations affected, and they need the opportunity to voice their thoughts as well. But as Chris said, this is not only about getting that extra help in place which Liz Sayce's report talks about - how we might do that better in the future - but there's also a number of other things we need to look at and that's to do with attitudes and broader support in the workplace for disabled people.
PETER WHITE: But of course headlines tend to focus on - and indeed some of the statements of ministers - on getting people off benefits rather than helping them into work. Is that what this is about? Because that's also something I've heard Chris Danes say.
MARIA MILLER: Well what we know is that, as you said right at the start, around 50 per cent of disabled people aren't in work. Many want to be who aren't getting the help that they need. And what I'm attracted to in Liz sayce's recommendations is that she's talking about ways that we can use the same amount of money, and that money's protected for supporting disabled people into employment, and actually get 35,000 more people into employment with the same amount of money. I think it would be wrong not to look at that in some detail, and that's why the consultation launched today is so important.
PETER WHITE: But would you accept that there are people like Chris Danes; as you said, he would love to work but he feels like he's not really a viable proposition for an employer, and indeed we're in a very unforgiving production situation at the moment where it's difficult ... you know, employers themselves find it difficult to help people who are not always productive.
MARIA MILLER: Well, what I want to see is the money, that we have there and available, to support people like Chris to get the sorts of jobs that they can keep in the long term. Again, going back to the Sayce review which we're launching the consultation on today, advocates increased use of Access to Work. If we're going to increase the use of Access to Work then we've got to make some tough decisions about other places we're using our money. This is what the consultation's about and I'd really urge people to get involved.
PETER WHITE: Liz Sayce you've also said you want to see disabled people working in a far wider range of jobs. What do you mean by that? And again, how practical is it? The government often quotes disabled people saying they want to work but of course it has to be practical and it has to be in a situation where they can actually sustain it.
LIZ SAYCE: Well, do you know that about 300,000 people a year who lose their work because they become disabled or develop
a health condition, many of those people could keep their job if only they had access to an Access to Work programme or support. For example, something as simple as the right technology if you lose your sight ...
PETER WHITE: (interrupts) So why don't they get it?
LIZ SAYCE: ... Well they don't get it, partly because they don't know about Access to Work ... I've been talking to people who've lost their job precisely because they didn't know about the programme - we need to publicise it better - but also there are some areas in the economy, and some parts of the country, where there are jobs and in previous recessions we started much to late supporting disabled people to get back in to employment. and many many hundreds of thousands never got back in which really was a tragedy. So we should start now to help disabled people have a fair chance at getting those jobs in any part of the economy just like anyone else.
PETER WHITE: Can I ask, Maria Miller, a final question on that - isn't it much easier to keep people in jobs than get people into new jobs, and is Access to Work really geared for that at the moment?
MARIA MILLER: I believe Access to Work is geared for that at the moment though I think you're right, we need to be doing more to keep people in the jobs that they've got cos that's far easier, but we also need to make sure that we're using the money we've got most effectively, and at the moment a third of the money that we have to support disabled people is going into supporting individuals to stay in segregated employment in Remploy factories when that money could be used to support far more people to be in the sorts of mainstream jobs that Chris and other disabled people want to be in, and which really meet the aspirations of disabled people now rather than perhaps the aspirations that they had in the second world war when Remploy was first set up.
PETER WHITE: Minister, Liz Sayce, thank you very much indeed ...
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• All on one page, find: the government response, the initial report from Liz Sayce and the consultation document.
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