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Our response: Paying disabled people less for work

16 October 2014

Today the BBC has reported the Lord Freud suggested disabled people could be paid less than the minimum wage

Lord Freud made the remarks during a fringe meeting about welfare changes at the Conservative Party conference.

In response Liz Sayce, CEO of Disability Rights UK said:

“We face a crisis of disabled people’s poverty. Disabled people are:

  • Twice as likely to live in poverty as everyone else
  • More likely to be working in low-paid jobs (when working at all)
  • Young disabled people are twice as likely to be not in work, education or training even than other young people

So the very last thing we need is public statements suggesting disabled people could work for less than the minimum wage. This would just make poverty even more horrendous. We need from government a strategy to enable far more disabled people to get decent employment opportunities – starting with a rock-solid commitment to the minimum wage.

Government also needs a decent disability employment strategy – replacing the Work Programme, which is not working for disabled people, with support based on evidence that takes account of different people’s individual needs and puts choice and control in the hands of individuals and employers."

We called on Lord Freud to withdraw the suggestion that some disabled people could work for less than the minimum wage. We are glad that he has apologised but are concerned that, despite this, there are still people who support this viewpoint, such as Mr Scott, a councillor in Kent, who defended Lord Freud's response, saying there were examples where the minimum wage "precludes a small number of physically or mentally disabled from working".

Further to this Liz Sayce was interviewed on Radio 4's PM programme at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04l10jp (the interview starts 11 minutes in). She challenged any assumption that any disabled people were worth less than the minimum wage, saying:

"Don't take the wage away, put the support in. The scandal is that many disabled people still live in poverty even when they are paid the minimum wage. We should be looking towards paying disabled people more, not less."

She rejected any notion that disabled people are unable to work providing they are given the right support but emphasised that the right support is a cost we should be prepared to pay. 

Note: Disability Rights UK's report 'Taking Control of Employment Support' argues that the government's huge Work Programme is failing disabled people and is very poor value for money. We want disabled people to have a greater say over their employment support and to decide how the money available is spent. Disabled people deserve real job

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