Government disability measures ‘miss opportunity’ for the self-employed

Theresa May’s new measures to tackle the barriers faced by disabled people fail to consider the 611,000 disabled self-employed people in the UK, according to the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE).

The prime minister unveiled a series of measures to break down the obstacles disabled people face in the workplace, at home and in the community. Part of this new package includes a consultation on how employers can better support disabled people.

Other measures include higher standards for new accessible homes, reforming statutory sick pay and exploring ways to improve support for those on disability benefits through a Green Paper.

In addition to the new measures, May also announced a new cross-government disability team. This new team will incorporate the current Office for Disability Issues and sit alongside the Government Equalities Office and Race Disparity Unit in a new Equalities Hub.

May said: “My determination to identify and tackle injustices, wherever they exist in society, remains as strong as ever. So, I am proud to announce new measures to break down barriers faced by disabled people, whether in employment, housing or elsewhere.

“We all have a crucial role – businesses, government and civil society – in working together to ensure that disabled people get the support they need and go as far as their talents can take them.”

The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, however, warned that once again, the self-employed are being left behind.

Research by IPSE has found one in seven (611,000 people) of the self-employed UK workforce are disabled, up by 30 per cent in five years. According to the report, Making self-employment work for the disabled people, most disabled people have actively chosen to work for themselves – only 12 per cent were ‘pushed’ into it by a lack of opportunities or redundancy.

Simon McVicker, IPSE’s director of policy, said: “It is certainly welcome that many disabled people will get significantly more support from these measures. But unfortunately, for the disabled self-employed this is just one more missed opportunity.

“Today, more disabled people than ever before are turning to the freedom and flexibility of self-employment. In fact, there are now over 611,000 disabled self-employed people in the UK – one in seven of all freelancers. Just focussing on employees is failing these people.

“IPSE recently published a report on the disabled self-employed that called for urgent improvements to the benefits system, including publicising the Access to Work scheme more widely and re-designing the Work Capability Assessment to ensure everyone who needs support can get it.”