Investing in disabled people’s skills could boost the economy by £35 billion

Improving the skills of disabled people to world class levels by 2020 would boost the economy by £35 billion over 30 years, equivalent to 18 months growth, and help tackle child poverty, argues SMF Chief Economist Stephen Evans in a new report, Disability, Skills and Work: Raising our ambitions, published by the Social Market Foundation in association with the Disability Rights Commission.

The report argues that, as well as the benefits from raising the skills rate of disabled people to world class levels, improving the employment rate of disabled people to the UK average through skills improvements would give a boost to the economy of some £13 billion, equivalent to six months economic growth.

To achieve this prize Disability, Skills and Work recommends:
• A national commitment to reducing the relative skills gap between disabled people and the national average
• Employers be required to take greater responsibility, aided by improved support, but backed by tough new legal duties if progress falls short
• Out of work disabled people be given much greater opportunity to improve their skills as a route back to work

These proposals would not only result in increased productivity and employment, but also help tackle poverty, in particular child poverty.

Children from deprived backgrounds often risk becoming trapped in a cycle of disadvantage. Given one in three children living in poverty in Britain has a disabled parent, the report contends that transforming the employment prospects of disabled people by investing in their skills must be a central part of the Governments efforts to end child poverty by 2020.

Commenting, author of the report, Stephen Evans said:

“The size of the challenge is daunting. But the scale of the prize is huge and the cost of inaction is mounting by the day through wasted talent. The past decade has shown how empowering disabled people and supporting employers can work. The next decade needs to see a step change in this approach and a dramatic boost to the skills of disabled people.”

Agnes Fletcher, Director of Policy and Communications at the Disability Rights Commission, said:

“Despite rising levels of employment for disabled people over recent years, too many are still without jobs and living in poverty as a result. Supplying disabled people with the skills they need is the missing link between ending child poverty, boosting the economy and getting more people off benefits and back into work. As this report shows, investing in disabled people’s skills is a win/win situation for Government, creating massive dividends for the economy and delivering greater equality at the same time.”