Over 50% of Workless Homes have a Disabled Adult


People living with a disability are being left behind in the government’s drive for employment and more than half of the households in which nobody works contain at least one adult with a disability, according to a new report by Resolution Foundation.

The ‘Employing new tactics’ report published on Monday shows that modern day worklessness (households where nobody works) has changed and the challenge of how to tackle workless households has changed and requires a fresh approach.

There are now very few households in which a parent does not work if their children are of school age or parents do not have disabilities. Just over one in ten workless households are non-disabled single parents, and two thirds of these (64%) have a child under the age of five.


The report found that:

  • The number of households in which nobody works has fallen to a 30 year low, reversing the trends of the late 1980s and 1990s
  • The fall in worklessness has been fastest among households with children – only 11.7 per cent of children now live in a workless household compared to 19.7 per cent in 1996
  • Single parents have fared particularly well with their workless rate falling by two-fifths – from 49.1 per cent in 1996 to 31.1 per cent in 2015.
  • While worklessness appears to have fallen across the board, the composition of workless households has changed in a profound way – households with a disabled adult now represent over half (54 per cent) of all workless households.

Policies less successful for those living with disabilities

The report suggests that over the last two decades a range of policies introduced under successive governments have sought to tackle high levels of worklessness - particularly among parents. A blend of measures  including; increased job search conditions, practical support to find work, improved financial incentives and greater support with childcare costs have helped to reduce the number of households in which nobody works especially among parents. But despite some falls in worklessness for disabled households, policies appear to have been less successful for people living with disabilities than for parents over the past two decades.

The report states that: “For disabled people, the extent to which the tax credit system provides an incentive to work may be outweighed by the barrier to work that disability can create. A person may struggle to meet the 16 hour requirement due to the nature of their disability or in the case of a couple, care responsibilities.

The successes of policy measures to boost parental employment provide something of a template when designing support for disabled people, although it is clear that the support in place has not been effective enough and significant shift in thinking about the barriers faced by disabled people is required.”


David Finch, senior economic analyst at the Resolution Foundation told the Guardian newspaper: “In order to progress towards full employment and to make further significant inroads in reducing worklessness, the government must now focus its attention on helping out-of-work disabled people. This will require a fundamental shift in policy, and should be a key focus for the upcoming disability whitepaper.”

David Finch, The Resolution Foundation - The shifting shape of worklessness creates new challenges
The Guardian - Disabled ‘are being left behind’ in the hunt for jobs, claims thinktank