Opinie: I’m working for free until 2022 thanks to the disability pay gap

Opinie: I’m working for free until 2022 thanks to the disability pay gap
New research has found that non-disabled workers are currently paid 16.5 per cent more a year than disabled workers

If you want an example of the disconnect between our rulers and large parts of the country, look no further than their response to some fairly horrific figures about how gestremd people have fared during the pandemie.

They were put together by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Leonard Cheshire Disability, and I’d describe them as, Ek weet nie, scandalous? Disgraceful? Dismal? You can pick your own adjective. No need to be original. It’s not as if we haven’t been here before. It’s not as if we won’t be here again.

Die survey the TUC and Leonard Cheshire Disability commissioned from researcher Britain Thinks found that two out of every five (40 persent) disabled workers had faced financial difficulty during the pandemic, compared to around one in four (27 persent) non-disabled workers.

More than one in six (16 persent) of the disabled respondents said their level of debt had increased compared to around one in 10 (11 persent) of the non-disabled workers. Around three in 10 (28 persent) of the former said they had been forced to cut back on spending, compared to around two in 10 (18 persent) non-disabled workers. People with disabilities were more than twice as likely to have used a food bank and around twice as likely to be worried about their jobs.

Then there’s the pay gap between disabled and non-disabled workers – which TUC research put at 16.5 per cent or £3,458 a year, based on a 35-hour week. If you compare non-disabled men to disabled women, it looks even worse. The gap balloons to 32 persent.

From today onwards, if you – like me – have disabilities, you’re effectively working for free. I decided to share the figures from this research with the Department for Work and Pensions. I addressed my questions to the minister for disabled people, Chloe Smith, but I’m not sure she actually exists. Sy was, miskien, created by a Tory computer programme to occupy an East Anglian seat. En, natuurlik, to emerge and vote as required in favour of things like overturning the MPs’ sleaze watchdog, before disappearing back to her office to sign off on press releases that pretend the government is doing stuff for disabled Britons.

Here’s the response I received from a spokesperson, which I will, in fairness, give you in full: “Helping disabled jobseekers find, retain and progress in fulfilling work is at the heart of our efforts to build back fairer. The latest figures show the disability employment gap has narrowed, but we remain committed to reducing it further as we work towards our goal to see one million more disabled people in work by 2027.

“As part of our National Disability Strategy, we are consulting on introducing workforce reporting for businesses on the number of disabled people to improve inclusivity. Through our Access to Work scheme, disabled employees can also receive practical support to help them stay in work through grants worth up to £62,900.”

Ah, the National Disability Strategy. The government’s favourite wheelchair-bound straw man. It’s a bit like one of Boris Johnson’s old columns. Dense, verbose, overlong and without anything much of substance to say. It does lack the casual use of racist language Johnson was wont to indulge in, which counts as a point in its favour. Trouble is, what’s missing is the big pile of Daily Telegraph money Johnson used to pocket – a reported £250,000 annually for his missives. Die Disability News Service reckons that disabled Britons got 28p each in terms of new funding, after analysing the most recent budget.

Good luck with getting one of those back to work grant things. Getting any form of help when you’re disabled involves jumping through more hoops than one of those Crufts dogs that are trained to impress the cameras by tackling obstacles.

As for the employment gap, sure, it’s down on last year when we were in lockdown. You’d expect that now we’re out of it and have labour shortages. You’d actually expect the decline to be quite substantial. In actuality, it amounts to 0.7 persentasiepunte. The gap currently stands at 28.4 persent. So what little decline there has been sits in basically the same category as that 28p.

All this does rather suggest that nobody in Westminster or Whitehall gives a flying – you know what. I won’t test my editor’s tolerance by spelling it out.

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But you know what the really depressing thing is? This problem is not just confined to the Tories. It’d almost be easier if it was, because then we could say it’s the same old rotten Tories, eh. Let’s get them out and things might improve.

Maar nee. Also in the news today is Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, who’s been trousering £78k in addition to his not ungenerous MP’s salary of more than £80k to “benefit my disabled son”.

I might, as a disabled person with a child with disabilities, be inclined to sympathise with that, except that They Work for You says he has “almost always voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability” and “almost always voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits”.

Every time I see this sort of thing, it threatens to generate a headache powerful enough to bust through the cocktail of painkillers I take to keep at bay the crap my disabled body likes to throw at me. The House of Commons seems to have lost its capacity to care – if it ever had it. Has the rest of the country, ook? I just don’t know.

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