Reply to Liz Sayce: People with reduced productivity need representation too

Thank you Liz for your  very thoughtful reply to our recent post.

You wonder why we focus on reduced productivity. It’s because it determines who can and can’t work. Long term ESA is only awarded to sick and disabled people who can’t work. It’s important to know who can work, but it’s also important to know who can’t work, so that they can be assured of financial security.

Disability campaigning has already done a wonderful job for people who don’t have reduced productivity. And the stereo type of this group is now dominant in campaigning. This is dangerous for other people, who are struggling with reduced productivity. This means that people don’t accept their barriers to work, and secure benefits are only given to the few people who are the most unlikely to find work. This takes away security for the majority of disabled people. Disability campaigning needs to represent all of us. Those with full productivity and also those with reduced productivity.

You say
For instance, we think government should offer financial support through Access to Work where people need periodic time off sick, so the employer can put in temporary cover – and not incur extra expense.
This is an example of exactly the type of government intervention in the labour market that we are calling for. Extra costs to the employer resulting from sickness or disability are being acknowledged and met by the government. We are calling these extra costs ‘reduced productivity’.

You say
And once good adjustments and support are in place, disabled people’s productivity is often at least as good as that of non-disabled people.
This is great. And we can understand why you focus on people like this. And we can also understand why the last thing they want is the stereo type of sick and disabled people with reduced productivity getting publicity. It doesn’t apply to them and they think that it would attach to them and undermine them.

You say
Productivity can also be helped by having a culture at work where people feel confident to be open about experiences of a health condition or impairment.
Exactly right. Even Iain Duncan Smith was saying that it isn’t a cliff face from ‘able to work’ to ‘can’t work’. And as you move down the spectrum towards people who have conditions that impact more on their performance we want them to be able to be exactly as you say, confident and open about experiences of their health condition or impairment.

We don’t like strange language like barriers to work or being far from the labour market. We want to use Plain English. People tell us simple things like they don’t work as fast as they did before they were sick or disabled. This is a cost to the employer. We don’t want people to be embarrassed about the way sickness and disability impacts on their performance. We want them to be able to be out and proud and open with employers and still get a job.

People have to go out in to a competitive labour market and talk to potential employers. The bar between can and can’t compete is going to come at the point where government interventions like the one you suggest above reach their limit. And at the moment the limit is very low.

We need to discuss where this limit comes. And we need an acceptable language to talk about it. So that we can go forward and represent all disabled people.

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