Today marks the publication of a new report, Beyond the Barriers, on the failure of the employment and support allowance (ESA) system. So what’s new you might wearily respond given the almost daily criticisms of the system in the media? But this is a report with a difference. First it is entirely researched and written by disabled people in the Spartacus Network who are able to bring their experiences of the system and of disability to bear on the critique. Secondly this is not just another critique. Instead it offers constructive alternatives, which take as their starting point the everyday experience of disability.
The report illustrates just how stressful the current work capabilities assessments can be and suggests an alternative system. For me of particular interest was the analysis of a labour market that still creates far too many barriers for disabled people. The report illuminates how difficult it can be for people with degenerative, mental health or fluctuating conditions to sustain employment when the labour market is so inflexible in the face of their needs. There are a number of ideas for how to inject an element of flexibility so as to lower these barriers.
All in all the report really brings home the value of listening to disabled people themselves when developing policies that claim to support them.