Today, the Work and Pensions Select Committee has published a new report called the Disability employment gap. The Committee is a group of MPs that investigates what the Government is doing on work and benefits. In this report, they have been looking at the Government’s efforts to get more disabled people into work. 

This inquiry is important because the Government is currently consulting on proposals to improve the disability employment rate. You can still have your say in this, by filling out the consultation online.

The National Autistic Society submitted evidence to the Committee, including from our Autism employment gap report, to highlight the issues that autistic people face finding and staying in work.

The Committee’s report welcomes the Government’s aim to halve the disability employment gap (the gap between the 48% employment rate of disabled and 80% rate of non-disabled people). Our research suggests that the autism employment gap is even wider, with just 32% autistic people responding to our survey last year saying they’re in work.

The Committee’s report highlights the important role employers play in reducing the gap. We agree with this and have called on the Government to launch a national programme to raise awareness of the skills and potential of autistic people among employers. 

The Committee has also recognised that work coaches on the front line in Jobcentres need better understanding about the disabilities that people have. We think this is vital and have called on the Government to make sure that all autistic people can get support from people who really understand autism and the barriers that autistic people can face when looking for work.

It also highlights that the Government’s plans to reduce Employment Support Allowance for people in the Work Related Activity Group by £30 per week risks affecting disabled people’s quality of life. We think this cut is wrong and could push autistic people who have been found to be not fit for work even further from the workplace.

Currently, important data about disability employment (called the Labour Force Survey) doesn’t record if someone is autistic. We think this is wrong and means that the Government will not be able to tell if its policies are working for autistic people. So, we are very concerned that the Committee has suggested that the Labour Force Survey is not amended for the next ten years. This will make it harder to target the right employment support to autistic people and to close the autism employment gap. The Government should not take this recommendation forward.

Follow this link to read the full report.

Sarah Lambert, Head of Policy at The National Autistic Society, said: “Today’s report underlines the urgent need for a new approach to helping disabled people to find and stay in work. The current system clearly isn’t working, with our 2016 survey indicating that just 16% of autistic adults are in full-time paid work. This hasn’t changed in almost a decade and means that employers are missing out on a huge amount of talent."

We welcome the Committee’s recognition that work coaches in jobcentres need a better understanding of different disabilities. Autism is complex and affects each person differently so this could be transformative for autistic people and help them access the tailored support they need to find work.

"In our 2016 survey, six in every ten of the autistic people we spoke to said their experiences of Jobcentre Plus was poor or very poor. Better autism understanding can address this." 

“We share the Committee’s concerns about plans to cut Employment and Support Allowance for people in the Work Related Activity Group, which we believe will push many autistic people who have been found to be not fit for work even further from the workplace. We urge the Government to listen to the Committee’s concerns and recommendations carefully. Not all autistic people are able to work. But many are desperate to find a job and with a little understanding and small adjustments to the workplace, they can be a real asset to businesses across the UK.”