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one - Disabled people, work and welfare

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 March 2022

Chris Grover
Affiliation:
Lancaster University
Linda Piggott
Affiliation:
Lancaster University
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Summary

Encouraged by national and international pressures, there have been attempts in many countries in recent decades to increase the employment rates of disabled people. In Britain, for example, Labour governments between 1997 and 2010 developed several policies with such aims. These policies have been extended since 2010 by Britain's coalition government. The British example is instructive because it demonstrates the range of often contradictory considerations – economic, moral and social – that have framed various governments’ desire to increase the participation of disabled people in wage work. These include:

  • • a concern with tackling the social exclusion – defined as exclusion from wage work – of disabled people;

  • • a concern with the human rights of disabled people – that facilitating access to paid employment is an important way in which commitments to human rights can be addressed;

  • • a concern with the numbers of people receiving out-of-work benefits, including disability benefits, because of the alleged effects that such benefits have on recipients’ motivation for paid work and their wider attitudes (the so-called ‘dependency culture’);

  • • a concern with the intergenerational transmission of wage worklessness from disabled people to their offspring;

  • • the economic need to increase the number of people competing for wage work through what has been referred to as the ‘effective labour supply’ and the reserve army of labour to constrain wage inflation;

  • • economic redistribution – for example to tackle child and older people's poverty;

  • • a reorientation of welfare benefit support for disabled people that has emphasised a contractual, rather than rights-based, approach and which as a consequence has increased the expectation that in order to receive such support, individuals will have to act in a prosocial manner, most notably through attempts to (re)enter wage work at the earliest opportunity;

  • • a desire to save money, particularly but not exclusively after the financial crash of 2008 and the ensuing drive for austerity (see, for example, Secretary of State for Social Security and Minister for Welfare Reform, 1998; Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, 2006, 2008a, 2008b, 2010a, 2010b; for discussion, see Piggott and Grover, 2009; Bambra and Smith, 2010; Grover and Piggott, 2010, 2013; Houston and Lindsay, 2010; Deacon and Patrick, 2011; Garthwaite, 2011; Patrick et al, 2011; Lindsay and Houston, 2013).

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Chapter
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Disabled People, Work and Welfare
Is Employment Really the Answer?
, pp. 1 - 22
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2015

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