CSJ publishes Disability Commission report: Now is the Time

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) Disability Commission has published a comprehensive report, Now is the Time, that examines disability policy across education, employment, housing, transport, and access to goods and services. BASE fed views into the report's development. We welcome its recommendations and expect it to influence the development of the National Disability Strategy.

The report has large chapters on education and employment with specific sections devoted to apprenticeships, Supported Interrnships and Supported Employment. The report also contains recommendations around support for employers, Access to Work, Disability Confident, workforce reporting and government procurement.



1. Supporting more disabled pupils onto apprenticeships

Recommendation 1a: the Government should review the apprenticeship programme to assess how it is working for disabled apprentices, with a particular focus on:

i. the impact of the fall in level 2 apprenticeships on prospective disabled apprentices;

ii. reforming the national targets set for the proportion of disabled apprentices on the programme to align with the proportion of the working population that is disabled;

iii. developing absolute as well as relative targets for the number of disabled apprentices.

Recommendation 1b: the Government should review and improve how it advertises the available support for disabled people to undertake apprenticeships to both employers and employees. Measures such as automatic pop-up reminders on the digital Apprenticeship Service for employers could be a simple, timely and effective tool to inform employers of the support they can receive. The government should work with Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs), employers’ organisations and other key stakeholders to determine how to best advertise this support.


2. Rolling out supported employment services

Recommendation 2a: The Government should develop a standard fidelity scale that can be used to assess supported employment service providers to ensure they are offering a quality service. Given the link between a high-fidelity score and high employment outcomes, providers should only be able to bid for contracts if they can demonstrate the ability to achieve a high score on the fidelity scale.

Recommendation 2b: The Government should fund a partnership initiative, modelled on IPS Grow, to help support the roll-out of local supported employment services to groups of disabled people with the lowest employment rates.

Recommendation 2c: Once supported employment services have been established, the Government should scale up investment in providers that are achieving the best employment outcomes for disabled people (taking into account the severity of the disability).

Recommendation 2d: Once funding for the roll out of supported employment services is confirmed, the Government must communicate and advertise these opportunities as widely as possible.


3. Improving the quality and supply of supported internships

Recommendation 3a: Responsibility and funding for supported internships, including job coach support, should be based solely within the Department for Education.

Recommendation 3b: The Government should draw on evidence-based research to create a national framework and set of standards for supported internships that builds on the four key principles stipulated by the DfE. These standards should include the use of up-to-date tools and templates, and best practice resources and training, for example.

Recommendation 3c: The government should establish an inspection regime to quality assure supported internship providers to ensure they adhere to the newly established national standards and provide the resources to support providers to maintain these standards. This quality assurance regime should cover all the key partners (the host employer, the supported employment service provider, and the overall coordinator of the internship).

Recommendation 3d: The Government should run a process to identify the organisations that meet the supported internships national framework and funding should only be released to those that meet this framework. All funding released for the development of supported internships must be ringfenced.

Recommendation 3e: Organisations delivering supported internships should publish and report their outcomes regarding the number of disabled people they have supported into sustained employment. A positive employment outcome might ultimately be defined as paid employment over 16 hours per week, though this figure may well be lower depending on the severity of the disability. Future funding for supported internships should be targeted on providers demonstrating the best outcomes.

Recommendation 3f: The DfE should formally commit to ensuring all young people with EHC Plans are offered a fully funded supported internship.

Recommendation 3g: The government should conduct an awareness campaign to increase young peoples’, employers’, and educational providers’ awareness of supported internship opportunities.


Other recommendations include:

Offering more experiences of the workplace

Recommendation 15a: The Department for Education should produce an action plan to resolve the lack of supported work experience opportunities offered by schools to disabled pupils/pupils with SEND – the plan should include a dedicated DfE grant which is tailored to short-term and flexible work placements and supports education providers and employers to make placements accessible as standard.

Recommendation 15b: The Government should fund research to understand why employers do not offer experiences of the workplace to pupils, with a specific focus on engaging disabled pupils/pupils with SEND. The findings from this research should be used to inform recommendations to encourage employers to offer experiences of the workplace.

Recommendation 15c: The Government should double the current expectation of work experience placements/work exposure for disabled pupils/pupils with SEND. These pupils should be provided with two work placements before the age of 16, and another two between 16 and 18.


Strengthening transitions to employment within EHC Plans

Recommendation 16a: Local authorities should review their EHC Plans to ensure that there is a presumption of equal opportunity for employment from the commencement of the Plan, with a forward-looking approach, and support mechanisms in place to enable successful transitions to employment. Recommendations 1a–b, 2a–d, and 3a–g provide ways to increase and improve some key routes into employment for young disabled adults.

Recommendation 16b: Pupils with an EHC Plan who move into employment before the age of 25 should be able to return smoothly and quickly to a new Plan if their employment ceases. This could be done by swapping the ‘education’ element of the EHC Plan with an ‘employment’ placeholder.