MS Reporter Natalie interviews Karen Steadman, Senior Researcher for The Work Foundation, to find out what real change the green paper can lead to and whether a new government could come in and start afresh in three years time.
Natalie: What real changes can this Paper lead to? Could a new government come in and start afresh in three years’ time?
Karen Steadman, Researcher: Short honest answer, yes, of course they could. [laughs] Yes, no I mean of course they could. And that’s obviously always a risk, but what we’ve seen with this Paper, like I say, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Damian Green, and the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, have both signed off this Paper, they’re both kind of embedded in this process and engaged with it. Even Theresa May, I’ve seen the other week on, well, actually last week on TV, she was talking about mental health and employment and what a priority that is. So it’s very much on the government agenda. There’s also been commitment, as I say, to addressing this disability employment gap, and that’s a target that the government’s set and which they’ll be accountable for, so they need to be doing stuff in this space. So I mean we can be quite positive that things are going to happen. So it’s a ten-year plan, it’s got cross-party support, so everyone’s involved in this and this is seen as something for everyone to work towards. I mean I suppose what’s important to bear in mind is, you know, as we probably learnt in 2016, you never quite know what’s going to happen next.
Natalie: Just hope for the best.
Karen Steadman: Exactly. We don’t know what Brexit’s going to mean for these things and there are lots of risks associated with Brexit. But I mean things, like major changes like that, making things a bit turbulent, mixing things up, also presents opportunities.
Natalie: Absolutely. That’s what I was thinking, it presents opportunities and like you were saying, everyone’s on board, so all parties concerned want to work towards the end goal, so this is probably the best time to really find the gap and make that achievable, as opposed to just discussing it. Let’s make it achievable, all work together, like you’re having voices from people who do have disabilities, whether it be long term, short term, when it’s considered, but for the opportunity to speak to those people and they’re raising their concerns and highlighting that. Not just with them, but also for the employers to understand. So all kind of working together gives that guidance on a full scale, I think.
Karen Steadman: Yeah, certainly. And the thing is, we all, you know, I mean I’m a researcher on health and work and I talk to lots of people and I do lots of projects and to some extent I think I know some of the barriers, I know some of the things, but I mean I’m just one person doing research. You know, you need to get as many views as possible, people who are living in the situation to find out what is reality, what is happening to people on the ground and what can we actually do to try to make it better. So I mean I really do… I would love to see as many people as possible respond to this consultation and I think it’s really important to not just have like the usual suspects talking about it.
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