Overview - Disability & Employment
It is recognised that disabled people and those with
long-term health conditions, learning disabilities or mental health
issues can face particular and complex barriers to sustained
employment, such as stigma and discrimination or lack of confidence
and skills. These barriers result in low levels of employment: 46.3
per cent of working-age disabled people are employed compared with
76.4 per cent of the general working-age population, a 30.1 %
difference (ONS, Labour Force Survey Q2 2012).
The total figures hide much worse levels of labour market
exclusion for some disabled people, in particular young disabled
people, those with low or no formal qualifications, people with
learning disabilities and people with mental health issues.
Although some progress was made in narrowing the employment gap
between disabled and non-disabled people at the start of the
century, since 2010 progress has stalled. That year the UK's
employment rate for disabled people was lower than the EU average.
This reversal of fortunes is reflected in the eSAY statistics for
people with learning disabilities in Scotland, which recorded a
fall to only 8% in work in 2012.
To promote a fairer and more inclusive society it is vital to
tackle these inequitable employment rates and support people with
disabilities into sustained work. Experience and research has shown
that the nature of this support is a major determinant on whether
or not disabled people will get opportunities for employment.
Disabled people overwhelming want personalised employment support
and this corresponds with the evidence on what type of support is
the most effective (EU-Social Inclusion, Income and Living
Conditions Survey 2010).
Sayce review found that 'Evidence from across learning
disability, mental health, physical rehabilitation and beyond shows
consistently that support that is flexible, personalised, long
lasting when needed, with a rapid focus on job search, is more
effective than a series of stepping stones to employment. It also
shows support must be available to the employer.'
This approach is encapsulated in supported employment; and the
very similar approach - Individualised Placement and Support (IPS) or
evidence-based supported employment (EBSE) for people with mental
What is Supported Employment?
Supported employment has been defined in Scotland as,
"promoting the rights of all individuals to achieve their full
potential through a model of flexible support that enables people
to overcome barriers to their employability and access real jobs
for real pay".
Supported employment is the most effective employability approach
in terms of helping disabled people into sustainable paid work
(Beyer & Robinson, 2009; Perkins, Farmer & Litchfield,
2009; Wistow & Schneider, 2007).
Supported employment schemes initially were used to help people
with learning difficulties, but have increasingly been extended to
other impairment groups such as people with long-term mental health
conditions. Supported employment for people with mental health
conditions, known as Individual Placement and Support (IPS) or
evidence-based supported employment, is backed up by a body of
evidence. The EQOLISE randomized controlled trial (Burns et al,
2007) compared the outcomes of IPS versus high-quality
train-and-place vocational rehabilitation in six European centres,
including the UK. It showed that 54.5% of people engaged with the
IPS service worked for at least one day compared to 27.6% of people
who engaged with the other vocational services.
Supported employment's aim to match people with jobs in the open
labour market is what many unemployed disabled people want. Stanley
and Maxwell found that 86% of people with mental health conditions
currently not in employment would like to work (IPPR, 2004).
Similarly, a review of employability support for disabled people in
Edinburgh in 2013 found that generally disabled people wanted paid
work; work that was appropriate - fitted their needs, skills and
aspirations, and with empathetic employers.
Disability Rights UK's report in 2013,
Taking Control of Employment Support found that "there is a
gaping gulf between what disabled people want and what they get" in
terms of employability support. And "Disabled people require
effective support which genuinely improves their position in the
People want personalised support, such as is delivered by good
quality supported employment. For that to be a reality, services
have to focus on individual's strengths and attributes and the case
loads of employment support workers need to be kept low. The IPS
Fidelity Scale states 20 clients or less; and specialist services
working in Scotland with people learning difficulties or autism
tend to have case loads of around 12-14 clients.
For examples of supported employment in action, both videos and
short case studies, see the SUSE website.
The Supported Employment Model
Recognising the role of supported employment in tackling
inequality, the Scottish Parliament's Equal Opportunities Committee
Barriers and Creating Opportunities' (2006) recommended good
quality supported employment be funded in Scotland, and to drive
this a Framework be produced.
Supported Employment Framework for Scotland was published
in February 2010 by the Scottish Government and COSLA. The
Framework lays out the five stepped approach to supported
employment, recognising it as "an employment first approach", which
focuses on positive outcomes for individuals.
Table 1: The Five Stage Approach to Supported
Supported Employment Stages -
supporting the aspiration towards 16+ hours of
Engagement by SE
On/Off the Job Support and
Helping disabled people most
distanced from the labour market to make informed choices on their
Identifying skills and preferences
for work, giving work experiences that will help the individual
make their own vocational choices.
Identifying the preferred job through
employer engagement, also providing support to the
Finding out about the workplace
environment, co-workers and the 'supports' a person might
Providing backup to the employee and
their employer, developing independence in the workplace and
addressing career progression in due course.
Supported employment can be considered "an end to end" service
for people with disabilities or long-term health conditions. It
should sit within the local employability pipeline, so services and
individuals can be linked to local resources, but supported
employment clients need to be offered consistent, ongoing support
from one employment support worker, who holds the thread of their
employment journey into, and within work.
Scottish Government, along with SUSE and
other partners, is working to improve the quality and
consistency of supported employment in Scotland. Funded by Scottish
Government, a Supported Employment
Professional Development Award (SQA Level 7) has been developed
by the Scottish Qualifications Authority, which is the first
industry-specific professional qualification.
SUSE and BASE are working to produce quality
standards for supported employment services; and SUSE is
working with the Scottish Government to produce a set of outcomes
for supported employment which can be used in the commissioning,
design and evaluation of supported employment services.
Research & Learning
Here you will find some of the key documents in this area. If
there is a document you would like to share here, please use the
Us' link at the top of the page.
Taking Control of Employment Support (2013) - Disability Rights
UK. This paper argues it is time for a "radical rethink" around
employment support for disabled people. It outlines what works and
what disabled people want.
Employing Disabled People and People with Health Conditions
(2013) - DWP. Guidance for employers, which is part of the
Disability Confident campaign launched in July 2013.
Work in progress: Rethinking employment support for disabled
people (July 2013). A report from major disability charities -
RNIB, Mencap, Mind, Action on Hearing Loss and Scope - calling for
urgent reforms to be made to improve employment prospects for
people with disabilities.
Views of Supported Employment (2012), SUSE and the University
Getting in, Staying in and Getting On: Disability Employment
Support fit for the Future (2011), A report by Liz Sayce for
the UK Government.
Working Life for All Disabled People: The Supported Employment
Framework for Scotland (Scottish Government, 2010) - This
document is the Framework for the delivery of Supported Employment
in Scotland. It is the outcome from the work of the Supported
Employment Task Group set up in response to the recommendations
published in the ' Removing Barriers and Creating Opportunities'
European Union of Supported Employment Toolkit (2010). A
concise guide to supported employment, with sections for employers,
employment support workers, services, and commissioners.
Employment Project - Final report (2009) - This is the final
report from the Scottish Consortium for Learning Disabilities
(SCLD) Employment Project; Working for change; A programme of work
to sustain support for a learning network on the employment of
people with learning disabilities.
Supported Employment & Mental Health Briefing Paper
for it!": Supporting People with Learning Disabilities and/or
Autistic Spectrum Disorders in Employment (2005)