Labour Market

Lord Freud’s comments

Over the past 24 hours I’ve been asked to appear on three radio shows to discuss Lord Freud’s comments on people with severe disabilities and learning difficulties and the national minimum wage (listen here 11 mins). This is a very emotive topic, for three reasons. First, because it involves discussing some of the most vulnerable people in the country. Second, because it involves discussing the national minimum wage (NMW) – which is fast becoming as untouchable and ideological a concept to debate as the NHS. Third, because the context of what Lord Freud actually said has been quite shamefully misrepresented in much of the media coverage and this has now become a political campaign to get the man sacked.

In order to discuss this rationally then, it’s important that what was actually said is accurately represented. The full transcript shows that Freud was answering a direct question from a Conservative councillor who said that he was dealing with certain individuals who actively wanted to work – primarily for the benefits to their quality of life – but were unable to find employment at the current minimum wage rate. This was simply for the reason that their condition meant that these particular people weren’t economically productive enough to find paid employment at the minimum wage without state assistance – and hence had thus far found they were unable to find work.

Freud reacted to the question by recognising that this was a problem for some individuals (note: not all disabled people or all of those with learning difficulties, as has been implied, most shamefully, by the Business Disability Forum on BBC News). He therefore suggested that for certain individuals – i.e. people like those asked about in the question, one idea might be to offer an exemption from the national minimum wage legislation to encourage private employers to hire them. You could, for example, have a much lower minimum wage at £2 per hour for these most difficult cases. This was discussed in the context of the Universal Credit – so it was clear that Lord Freud was not suggesting that vulnerable people would be living on £2 per hour – but that the state would step in to top up the lower market wage as a means of ensuring that severely disabled people would have the opportunity of employment but would not be living in extreme deprivation.

Now, one might disagree with his specific prescription and believe this is not the best way of enhancing opportunities for severely disabled people in the workplace. One might worry about who will decide who is placed in this sort of scheme. One might worry that some firms would seek to exploit this system. But surely no rational person, who has read the full transcript of what was said, can accuse Lord Freud’s views of being anything other than thinking out loud about how we can help some of the most vulnerable people in society. The trade-offs of minimum wage laws are well documented – and there is a long economic literature to show they tend to reduce the opportunities for the most unskilled workers.

This has not stopped the howls of outrage. Some have sought to imply that Lord Freud’s clumsy wording meant he was discussing the ‘worth’ of some severely disabled individuals as people, rather than the inability of some to be able to do jobs to the ability that firms are willing to take them on at the minimum wage rate. This is just not what he meant. A severely disabled person who finds it difficult doing a particular job can be objectively as valuable as anybody else. But it does not follow that they will receive the same amount in material reward from an employer for their work. The employer is compensating them for their time and effort and rewarding them for what they produce – this is totally distinct from our worth as human beings. Others have implied he was discussing all disabled people. This is just not the case. He was addressing a very specific question about people having difficulties finding work.

Perhaps most revealingly though, many people dislike what he says because they believe it ‘undermines the concept of the minimum wage’. Pointing out that existing laws actively prevent severely disabled individuals from finding employment – even though they would like to work and it would drastically improve their quality of life – is apparently beyond contempt. The ideology of the minimum wage wins out. In this world, it is apparently compassionate to back a policy which self-evidently means some severely disabled individuals cannot fulfil their employment ambitions. It is compassionate for them to be left unemployed. Indeed, one of the great travesties of the past 24 hours is that barely anyone who has expressed outrage about Freud’s comments has articulated a policy idea which would actually help the individuals Freud was discussing. You know, the people who want work – not just for the monetary rewards, but for the other benefits that employment brings. The sorts of people that really do need help from the state and civil society.

Twitter is awash with hysterical reactions. Many seem to think Lord Freud’s views are completely beyond the pale, that any suggestion the minimum wage law might be relaxed for certain groups is completely unthinkable. The irony is not lost on those of us who know a bit about the history and implementation of minimum wage laws.

When minimum wages were debated in the first decades of the 20th century between classical economists and the progressive Fabians, both agreed that they would create some unemployment for the young, the unskilled and many with disabilities. The classical economists saw this as a great problem, the progressives as a good thing. Sidney and Beatrice Webb, at the core of the Fabian Society over many years, said ‘With regard to certain sections of the population [the “unemployable”], this unemployment is not a mark of social disease, but actually of social health’. Wrapped up in eugenics programmes at the time, Sidney Webb said in 1912: ‘of all ways of dealing with these unfortunate parasites, the most ruinous to the community is to allow them unrestrainedly to compete as wage earners’. Several people with Fabian Society associations were extraordinarily critical of Freud yesterday.

I mention this not to suggest that these people share the Webbs’ views, but merely to point out that those who throw around ridiculous slurs and impugn the motives of Lord Freud – and seem to genuinely believe his view is utterly despicable – should have a sense of perspective. Historically, it is precisely the classical liberal economic viewpoint that has been concerned about the effects on the vulnerable of minimum wage rates. Up until 1997 there was a broad consensus that those whose productivity did not demand a particular wage level should be free to find work and have their income topped up by the state. And when the minimum wage was introduced, Mencap too – the charity for those with severe learning difficulties (who yesterday branded Freud’s comments ‘disgusting’) actually understood this impact – pointing out in a report that 1,000 people had probably lost their employment as a result of the minimum wage. At the time they called for precisely the sort of policy Lord Freud articulated yesterday. Since then, of course, the NMW has increased dramatically relative to earnings, meaning this impact is likely to be more significant.

It shows how far our politics has descended since then that anything like this cannot be discussed sensibly – not only a policy suggested by a learning difficulties charity just over a decade ago, but also one implemented in a host of other countries which we regard as perfectly pleasant and fair societies. Unfortunately, logic or reason has little space in this debate. Rather than discussing how policies actually affect the most vulnerable, we’re left discussing perception and emotion. We pretend we live in a world where economics doesn’t matter, that we can simply judge things by their intentions and not actual outcomes.

When I saw this story developing yesterday, I thought: why bother? Expressing a view different to the mob will result in so much bile, so much misrepresentation of your argument that it’s not worth it.  You’ll simply be labelled ‘nasty’. But as Matt Sinclair said on Twitter, ‘If it is “nasty” to discuss how to help severely disabled people find work, to improve their self-esteem, the word has lost all meaning’. This is a debate where the instinctive outrage train is worthy of being challenged.

Head of Public Policy and Director, Paragon Initiative

Ryan Bourne is Head of Public Policy at the IEA and Director of The Paragon Initiative. Ryan was educated at Magdalene College, Cambridge where he achieved a double-first in Economics at undergraduate level and later an MPhil qualification. Prior to joining the IEA, Ryan worked for a year at the economic consultancy firm Frontier Economics on competition and public policy issues. After leaving Frontier in 2010, Ryan joined the Centre for Policy Studies think tank in Westminster, first as an Economics Researcher and subsequently as Head of Economic Research. There, he was responsible for writing, editing and commissioning economic reports across a broad range of areas, as well as organisation of economic-themed events and roundtables. Ryan appears regularly in the national media, including writing for The Times, the Daily Telegraph, ConservativeHome and Spectator Coffee House, and appearing on broadcast, including BBC News, Newsnight, Sky News, Jeff Randall Live, Reuters and LBC radio. He is currently a weekly columnist for CityAM.

45 thoughts on “Lord Freud’s comments”

  1. Posted 16/10/2014 at 12:01 | Permalink

    Excellent post sir!

    Sadly ‘the mob’ are completely out of control and shout down such sensible views…. well done for making them though.

  2. Posted 16/10/2014 at 13:01 | Permalink

    A long-winded plea for private companies to be recipients of tax-payer funding. Freud and his supporters like you have no interest in the lives of disabled people; you are merely using them to provide a welfare state for business. It is never surprising the depths to which the supporters of exploitative capitalism will plum in order to spuriously justify the gravy train that transports taxes into the gleeful hands of private companies.

  3. Posted 16/10/2014 at 13:30 | Permalink

    Thank you for telling me what I think, John. Lord Freud was asked a very specific question about whether there was anything that could be done to help some people with severe learning difficulties who wanted to work because it enriched their lives. I happen to think that as a social policy, helping these people achieve these aspirations is not a nasty or cruel idea. If a welfare state cannot help the most vulnerable to achieve their ambitions, then what is the point of it? What you appear to be saying is because of your ideological aversion to [scare quotes] “private companies”, you’d prefer certain individuals to be permanently detached from the labour market, against their wishes and presumably even more dependent on state handouts. How humane of you.

  4. Posted 16/10/2014 at 13:38 | Permalink

    Apologies for wanting to remain anonymous but I do not like talking about personal matters in public. I go to about 7-8 IEA events a year and on my Twitter account describe myself as a “libertarian.”

    My son is 19 and is Downs Syndrome. Downs Syndrome people (DS) have different levels of disability, some are frankly unable to function in any shape or form and need 24×7 care while at best some are mentally no different to other people, and differ only in physical appearance. .My son is in the middle with impaired speech but physically able to to do most tasks.

    After completing college I always wondered what he would do as an adult. He has a job at John Lewis helping out with the stock. Even a proud dad like me would never think he is going to be as productive as an able bodied person and if the truth be known if he earned nothing or just had his expenses paid that would be enough. As Matt Sinclair rightly points out about the pride in work, being part of a team and meeting people.

    I am grateful that free enterprise has compassion. Lord Freud being monstered is appalling. If disabled people have to be paid the minimum wage ot will mean even less opportunities for them.

  5. Posted 16/10/2014 at 14:09 | Permalink

    One thought occurs to me about this ‘storm in a teacup’, namely that with difficult questions of this sort it is critically important to recognise reality. Otherwise there’s not much hope of coming up with sensible answers. Pretending to hold the moral high ground while failing to come up with a better answer is not helpful. It is also usually best not to assume that one’s opponents in argument are villains. And for once let’s give a bit of credit to the government, which hasn’t sacked Lord Freud or pressed him to resign. What
    he said appears to have been misrepresented; but it may well be that he expressed himself clumsily. If so, he has done his best to correct that mistake.

  6. Posted 16/10/2014 at 16:30 | Permalink

    Another case of tne left thinking tne right is evil, and the right thinking tne left is stupid.

  7. Posted 16/10/2014 at 22:05 | Permalink

    Very good post, Ryan. The second twitterstorm of the week following Judy’s suggestion that people who come out of prison should be allowed to be employed, a view with which Nick Clegg apparently disagrees.

  8. Posted 17/10/2014 at 11:43 | Permalink

    This idea is completely illogical.

    First; people with disabilities who would be hired on this scheme would be token employees and therefore not treated equally by their colleagues (which will bring up multiple tribunal claims for discrimination). I have severe cerebral palsy but I have completed a PhD in cognitive neuropsychology and have written a number of journal articles and book chapters. However, I am constantly overlooked for lecturing jobs due to my disability, even when I have more experience and ability than the successful candidate.

    Second; if you are not capable of doing a job, then you should not apply for that specific job. I have quadriplegic cerebral palsy which means I am wheelchair bound, so I would not go for a job a fireman or to work in the SAS because I know I could not do it. Unfortunately people with learning disabilities cannot do certain jobs to the same standard as to those who do not have this disbaility. However, it may be possible for this person with the disability to do voluntary work and still get their benefits. In this way the employer would not have to go through a screening process to determine what proportion of the a job someone with a disability can do (to clarify I do not believe that Lord Freud’s says that all people with disabilities could work for £2 an hour from contributions from the employer and the Government would pick up the rest, but rather it would be on a scale grading the compensation for the employer to hire the individual).

    Third; people could argue that this should not be only available for people with disabilities but also for individuals who do not speak English as their first language or those who are just arriving into the country and need work experience. You could also argue that people who wanted to work in London, why should the Government subserdise the wages for doing the same job in Yorkshire for example compared to London?

    Lord Freud comments were very insulting to many people with a disability and I completely agree for the call for him to resign.

    Feel free to check out my blog

  9. Posted 18/10/2014 at 14:44 | Permalink

    I do wonder whether the NMW and Tax Credits are actually having a negative effect on both wages and full time employment. The reality now is that before tax pay has little relevance to take home pay on the bottom right of the payslip when people choose or are offered part time employment.

    There is now a huge incentive now to take part time work preferably with low skills and therefore commitment and allow the state to bring the take home pay up. Does anyone know what the trend is on tax credits since they were introduced.

    As far as the disabled are concerned, I think that Ed Miliband and the Labour party have done them a disservice, but then don’t expect politicians looking for a scalp to consider the consequences.

  10. Posted 18/10/2014 at 17:46 | Permalink

    Dr Almond, I’m sorry to hear that you are having trouble getting work due to problems employers perceive might arise from your disability. Perhaps you should contact the Equalities Commission since the discrimination you describe may well be contrary to the Equality Act 2010. I congratulate you on achieving a PhD, especially as you seem unable to spell subsidize. If you are one of those people with a disability who feels insulted by Lord Freud, may I suggest you acquire a sense of proportion to go with your PhD?
    While it is theoretically possible that people could argue as you suggest, regarding those without good English or who live in Yorkshire, anyone who did argue thus would clearly be extrapolating the debate to a ludicrous extent.
    Since you appear to be one of the growing number of people who seem to go through life waiting to be insulted, may I just say that, as an able-bodied worker, I am insulted by your suggestion that I and my fellow workers would treat disable colleagues as token employees.
    Finally, I note that you have failed to meet Ryan’s challenge to come up with a better solution, or indeed any solution, to the issue of how to get more severely disable people into employment.

  11. Posted 18/10/2014 at 20:09 | Permalink

    I really do despair. Dr Nicholas Almond seems to assume the disabled are like him. As has been pointed out repeatedly, including by the author of this excellent article, there are many disabled people who in a job market are going to struggle to be employed if at all. The purpose of businesses is to make money, and the smaller the business the harder it is going to be to employ people with severe disabilities. Businesses do not exist to support politically correct fantasies. Especially in smaller businesses, where every person may count, the reality is that disabled people who are unlikely to perform as well as their non disabled peers, however hard they try, how ever effort they may put in, will suffer in the jobs market.

    Some disabled people will require support to function in the workplace, and more to the point they are likely always to need that support. It is not damning or discriminatory to point out this reality. It simply is. Pretending otherwise for political reasons helps no-one.

    Many if not most of these want to work not for the money specifically, but for both the social and cultural benefits and the feeling of contributing to society, of feeling useful. It is far better to pay them less than the NMW and them be employed in a ‘real job than getting welfare benefits for ‘voluntary work’.

    It is entirely reasonable to argue if this is the best way to support the severely disabled in the workplace ; there are other approaches, and different approaches may be better in different circumstances and with different disabilities. For some disabilities it is a matter of adaption of the work place, for some it is going to involve regular ongoing input.

    Finally, Dr. Almond, if you think Lord Freud’s comments were “insulting” rather than clumsy, I think you haven’t bothered to see them in context.

    Anyone remotely intelligent should realise immediately that the concept of ‘worth’ means different things in different contexts. Someone’s worth as a person is unchanged by disability, but their “worth” to an employer is. Everyone has different “worths” depending on the situation.

    Whether you are unable to or unwilling to for political reasons I do not know. It is clear from the reaction from all sides of the political spectrum that this twiterrati nonsense is a despicable political scam to make cheap capital out of the disabled. Have you ever considered this attitude might be contributory to the barrier you are seeing to employment ? Or that you view yourself as superior intellectually and in experience ?

  12. Posted 18/10/2014 at 21:41 | Permalink

    Dr Nicholas Almond 1-“However, I am constantly overlooked for lecturing jobs due to my disability, even when I have more experience and ability than the successful candidate. ”

    Get a Lawyer, if you can show that you had more experience and ability and that being more able bodied wasn’t a necessity for the role it’s an open and shut case.

    2A- “if you are not capable of doing a job, then you should not apply for that specific job” As I’m sure you’re well aware being unemployed can cause all manner of problems for people, including depression. And some people with certain difficulties can find certain forms of repetitive work soothing. My brother has severe learning difficulties, he couldn’t hold down a proper job as a boss may have to explain something to him 5 times before he gets it and then again next week. Hes capable of doing the job, just not as well as someone more able bodied. He works doe a council run charity designed for people like him.

    2B”However, it may be possible for this person with the disability to do voluntary work and still get their benefits. In this way the employer would not have to go through a screening process to determine what proportion of the a job someone with a disability can do”
    The employer will still need to screen the disabled person to ensure their needs are met. I dont see how you think they can just turn up and do something without the employer having to take into account their disability. And someone who is working is entitled to be paid for their work, they can get pride knowing they earned their pay rather than being given it and being a “leach” on society as some can feel. It also lowers the amount the state and society must contribute to support them, freeing up money for elsewhere.

    3-“people could argue that this should not be only available for people with disabilities ” People could argue that the NHS Dentist should not stop at 18, people could argue that not just pitbulls should be covered by dangerous dogs act, but every other breed should be. People can argue a lot of things, but were arguing whether disabled people who don’t have the option improve thier disability should get this help. You’re arguing that something which was never said is ridiculous, how did you get your PHD doing that. Government already subsidise people with disability living allowance, housing benefit, child benefit, tax credits. There is soo much wrong with this argument.

    “Lord Freud comments were very insulting to many people with a disability and I completely agree for the call for him to resign.”

    How they were reported was insulting to everyone. Freud was asked by a councillor who was wondering how his daughter could get into work when he doubts she could produce enough value for the employer to be able to pay minimum wage. There is a difference between economic worth and worth as a human being. You seem to have a massive chip on your shoulder which s a shame, but you sound like a partisan attack dog.

  13. Posted 19/10/2014 at 00:32 | Permalink

    The John Lewis example is very powerful, but I just cannot see how this would not be rampantly abused by employers? As soon as there is a mechanism to ‘volunteer’ to work below NMW it will just become part of the bargaining process, like the Working Time Directive but worse.

    There are 9.5m registered disabled in the UK and it won’t take very long for people to realise they can tick a box to say the preferred job is ‘therapeutic’ and immediately make themselves highly sought after.

  14. Posted 19/10/2014 at 09:46 | Permalink

    Sadly, this whole brouhaha has nothing to do with disability rights, only with the left rent-a-mob’s desire to humiliate and do down a conservative. Have these idiots never thought that THEIR knee-jerk behaviour towards perceived political opponents is exactly the same as the behaviour they are imagining and complaining about from the hated “Tory”. THEY are the prejudiced ones, and THEY are making it impossible to have any kind of discussion towards actually finding answers.

    Well, let the diabled rot, we are too busy hounding tories, that’s all they are worth. (Not)

  15. Posted 19/10/2014 at 18:18 | Permalink

    As an employer of approx 500 people in a manufacturing industry I am that person who will decide only to employ the most capable people I can find at NMW. That’s not because I’m a bad guy, it’s just that my customers, and the consumer simply won’t pay a price for the value they add unless they are very efficient. I can’t employ anyone at that rate who cannot reach the capability of a motivated, trained, able-bodied person. I pay under 21s full NMW (above the rate I have to) because I can get full productivity, so I’m not trying to unfairly exploit anyone’s position.

    A significantly disabled person is doomed to unemployment or the condescension of a granted job in a non-commercial sector without serious consideration of this problem, as Lord Freud understands. This is sad. To sacrifice those people’s hopes for the fulfilment and society of a ‘real’ job in a real company for an ideology, or for political advantage, isn’t sad – it’s bad, and there has been some really rotten behaviour on this issue from people who pretend to champion the disadvantaged.

    As for Milliband, well here’s a man who constantly talks about how the ‘Westminster elite’ have lost the trust of the electorate and how he aspires to restoring that; yet he lied, plain and simple. He abused a man who voluntarily works to further the interest of disabled people all so he could push lower unemployment figures off the headlines. He knew the reality of the words – after all he had this statement held for two weeks pending the need to use it – yet he’d rather push for that mans dismissal for shallow advantage than do something of actual value. He is a worm.

  16. Posted 19/10/2014 at 20:34 | Permalink

    I have a daughter with Down’s Syndrome, aged 28. There are two issues most commentators either do not know about or wilfully choose to ignore:

    Permitted work:

    The discussion of what a disabled person should earn is, for a large number of people with mental disabilities, and a fair few with physical disabilities, simply irrelevant, because of the regulations governing “Permitted Work”. Anyone on employment and support allowance, incapacity benefit or severe disablement allowance, subject to the “Permitted Work Lower Limit”, is allowed to earn £20 per week, before losing benefits. See:

    So, is my daughter going to be any better off getting paid the minimum wage? Of course, she could just work for three hours per week on the minimum wage and the rest of the time for free, if it makes other people feel better!

    However, even if one were able to circumvent the Permitted Work rules, if you live in what counts as “residential care”, you will be caught by another rule:

    “Unless you are funding yourself, the local authority will add your benefit income to your other income when working out how much you should pay towards the care home fees. You should always be left with at least £23.90 per week in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland and £24.50 per week if you live in Wales, this is for personal expenses.” See:,_injury_and_disability/care_homes_and_benefits.aspx

    The same rules that apply to the elderly, usually in fairly short term residential care, apply to young people with disabilities, in long-term residential care. It just so happens that where my daughter lives, very happily and successfully, counts as residential care.

    What is the point of paying disabled people the minimum wage if they are subject to either the £20 or the £23.90 limit, or both?

  17. Posted 20/10/2014 at 09:20 | Permalink

    First, any typos are not my fault, I dictate my typing to my personal assistant so I don’t know what that has to do with anything. Secondly, it is not so easy to just get a lawyer and claim discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. Think what the outcome would be, especially if the Tribunal decided that the person with the disability should have been selected for the job. What would the outcome be? Do you hire the person with the disability and sack the other person? Will this not cause a lot of animosity between people in the department who might get on quite well with the person who has just been sacked for someone with a disability who thinks he or she was discriminated against? Do you just compensate the person with the disability for not getting the job? However, word could possibly go around other Universities that the person is a trouble causer, so you will end up not getting any more interviews. Just because someone with severe learning difficulties (for example) go to work and the Government subsidises their wages it does not mean that this person will fit into the work place. I have seen this happen in my local pub when someone with Downs syndrome was allowed to volunteer as a glass collector etc. She was not involved in the staff activities and normally she was treated with a lack of respect by both staff and customers; you cannot tell me that this experience is good for someone’s psychological well-being can you? There was an article in the Independent on Sunday which stated that people with disabilities work much harder people without a disability and I believe that this is because we have to prove that we are equal to our able bodied counterparts. This happened in the 1950s to 1980s with immigrants when these people would work longer hours for a lower wage and work a lot harder than the white British people; I think we all know the racist saying which was quite common in the 70s and 80s. My point is that we have 9.2 million people with some kind of disability and quite a lot of these people can work and want to work. However, for those who cannot match their counterparts in the workplace then perhaps there should be more community centres and community activities where they can go and integrate with different people without feeling that their employer is only hiring them because it only costs £2 an hour instead of the minimum wage.

  18. Posted 20/10/2014 at 09:45 | Permalink

    So Dr Almond, its better for them that they are consigned to made-up tasks in a community centre where they can be well and truly excluded from mainstream work and society? Seriously? If that was advocated by an able-bodied person they’d be pilloried for having a ghetto mentality. I can only imagine your reaction if people were suggesting you take a position as a lecturer in a disabled persons community centre!

    It’s weird how thinking is inverted; the people who want to find ways for significantly disabled people to be fully integrated with the able-bodied are the baddies, and the ones who insist they should be placed away from the rest of us in fantasy work are the good guys. Totally bizarre.

  19. Posted 20/10/2014 at 11:25 | Permalink

    No, you totally misunderstand my comment. What I meant was that community activities could be more helpful for individuals with severe learning difficulties because working and being bullied at work will not benefit them at all. No one is suggesting that someone with a disability should be kept away from society. HOWEVER, I do not feel that it is appropriate to allow companies to basically hire people with a disability for significantly less and then suggest that they tried to somehow be nice to these people because now they have to go out to work. I would be completely outraged if a University decided to give me a job (which someone else may be more qualified to do but not have a disability) just because they can save their own money and spend the Government’s If you are disabled and you are capable to do the job, then you should have an equal opportunity to get that job compared to an able-bodied counterpart. However, if you are not capable of performing the job due to a disability then you should not of been offered the post. Take this scenario, you have three people with disabilities who have a productivity of 35% and you have one able-bodied person who is capable of doing the job for the minimum wage. It would be cheaper for that company to hire the three people with a disability at £2 per hour rather than to hire the able-bodied person…That is not equality and all we want is equal rights. Ethnic minorities have, as do people of different genders, sexual orientation etc. We do not want to be subsidised so that people will hire us.

  20. Posted 20/10/2014 at 12:38 | Permalink

    Oh so now they’d be “bullied” at work? And you know this because…….?

    A company would not gain from the exercise if the productivity of the person would be very low, thus balancing out the wage rate gain. I assume they’d be certified as so to qualify for support, so that’s out of the hands of the business. Even in your hypothetical scenario you exclude the higher fixed costs of employing a person (training, induction, administration, canteen provision, etc.) and the potential higher costs of special supervision. These mean for those with highly compromised productivity its almost impossible for a company to benefit from their employment (to be frank, I couldn’t really make it work myself if they were working at £2, or even less). You have a PhD, can’t you see this for yourself?

    Overall, if you don’t want to deliver comparable unit cost to an employer in the real World then you can’t have a job. Simple as that. Maybe you’d prefer to do made up work in a group of similarly disabled people rather than be part of representative society but I suspect many wouldn’t share that choice. I guess if you can get a job lecturing on stage you’re all right but what about those who’d love to be part of the real commercial World?

  21. Posted 20/10/2014 at 14:39 | Permalink

    I think your name Bogbrush sums you up totally! I have seen people with learning difficulties ostracised at work and I don’t think you understand how people with some kind of disability get funding for support when they are actually working. If a person with a disability needs support to do their job then the Government will fund the needs of that person, but that person must be earning more than their personal assistant or any kind of supportive requirements needed. For example if a person was on the minimum wage and was subsidised by the Government but needed a personal assistant for assisting them with their job the Government would be paying £5 on top of the £2 which an employer would pay and then they would have to pay a support worker free access to work to support that person with the disability…so basically the company would be paying £2 and they Government would be paying £5 and an extra £7 for a support worker. We would not have that type of funding available at the moment to integrate severely disabled people into work. I am not sure about your comment about canteen provisions because where ever I have worked I have had to provide my own food and so have my PAs. Your argument about training is illogical because I refer back to my original argument that people with severe disabilities will require additional training and that will increase the cost of the project… why not just scrap the bedroom tax and increase benefits for people with severe disabilities. I don’t know where to start with your comment about bullying in the work place…I have seen this first hand and it is due to a misunderstanding of disability and a lack of education with work colleagues who are working alongside individuals with disabilities. To be honest people who understand disability are normally highly intelligent and therefore, not the type of people who would be working with the most vulnerable people with disabilities on the minimum wage. If there are 9.2 million people with disabilities and lets’ argue that 3 million are capable and willing to work, then why don’t we have an agreement where large companies must hire 2 % of the staff who have a disability? We are coming to a point where gender and ethnic inequality is not accepted in the workplace; so why is that not also the case for disability?

  22. Posted 20/10/2014 at 15:58 | Permalink

    So… your aim is to increase dependency on benefits and cut disabled people off from access to real emplyment; you enter into employment relationships with a presumption of bullying; and you don’t understand what’s written by someone who actually employs hundreds of people and fully understands the issues of training and employee fixed costs.

    Oh, and you don’t understand the irony of making a point about my nic (which is an implement which undertakes the onerous task of cleaning up xxxx left by people). See how appropriate it is?

    And you have a PhD? Seriously?

  23. Posted 20/10/2014 at 18:03 | Permalink

    So your argument is to make people with disabilities (not disabled people, which is insulting) work when they are not treated equally? Yeah that is a very good idea… and if you start from the bottom up you will see that bullying is very common for anyone who has a disability. If you want a copy of my PhD certificate just E-Mail me at [email protected]. It appears that you run a big company and you have no idea what happens in the real world… why dont you use your real name instead of Bogbrush? You have no idea what it is like to be discriminated against and I will challenge you to swap one week in my life for yours!

  24. Posted 20/10/2014 at 20:08 | Permalink

    Dr Almond, I really don’t need to see your certificate, I have no doubt you’re an academic. It’s quite clear! Neither do I want to swap my life with yours, I’m very happy with mine; I just think disabled people (and thevsuggestion that is an insult when “people with disabilities” isn’t makes me laugh) deserve a fair chance to work and rub shoulders with the able bodied. You want them dumped in community centres doing fake jobs. As for using my real name, there are far too many strange people on the internet to do that. Anyway, all I’m interested in is discussing the point that it’s wacky to abuse someone who tries to find ways to help disabled people (or us that people with disabilities, I forget the difference).

  25. Posted 21/10/2014 at 08:32 | Permalink

    Bogbrush is IMO entirely correct. The disabled do not want to be in jobs which are faked up , or voluntary, or aren’t real jobs just so someone can pretend they are working.

    They want the same jobs as everyone else. They want it for social reasons, and they want to feel they are genuinely contributing something by doing something, within the limitations imposed by their difficulties.

    However for some this may be very difficult verging on impossible. They may need support in the workplace. They may not be able to work in a way that is economically efficient to the employer in which case they are going to lose out to someone who does not have that disability unless there is some system to compensate the employer for that economic loss.

    I think the point about it becoming a work-around for the NMW has a point. I’m not convinced myself this is the best approach. I think the point though is that Lord Freud was not doing it to damn the disabled, he was suggesting ways in which they may be helped and the attempts to drag him into the gutter are appalling.

    I have come across the limits on payment myself ; I used to employ someone who was moderately disabled on a part time basis , I had more work for him to do, he wanted to do it, but we concluded that unless I paid him on the black (which neither of us was prepared to do) he would have been quite literally working for nothing.

    Another problem which hasn’t been mentioned is the unlimited compensation limits for claims based on disability at employment tribunals. Whilst there are few of these in reality, the possibility is still there and this does not encourage employers to take on the disabled, in case they get a “wrong un” who will play the system for all its worth.

    Dr Almond appears to have no grasp on reality. If you were to mandate that (say) 2% of staff had to have a disability, firstly what do you do about companies that employ less than 50 staff, which is most of them.
    Secondly, people would ‘cherry pick’ disabilities suitable to their employment – those where the disability least affected their ability to do the job, and the sort of people Lord Freud was discussing are going to be on the bottom of that particular list.

  26. Posted 21/10/2014 at 08:45 | Permalink

    “We are coming to a point where gender and ethnic inequality is not accepted in the workplace; so why is that not also the case for disability?”

    With a very few exceptions, gender and ethnic differences make little difference to the actual economic worth to the employer and those tend to be fairly straightforward (for example you could not have a male supervising the showering of young females in a residential environment), whereas significant disabilities do.

  27. Posted 21/10/2014 at 09:09 | Permalink

    If you can’t see how disabled people is insulting then it explains why you can’t understand my argument, why don’t we just go back calling people spastics and retards, is that acceptable? Disabled or handicapped people indicates that the person is not normal in some way but if someone has a disability, you are separating the person from their disability, so you can see the person without insinuating that they have something wrong with them. This is what we are up against because people do not understand the PC terms in disability but they understand it for ethnic minorities or people with different sexual orientations. I do not say that people are “dumped in community centres” my point is that from a equality viewpoint I do not believe anyone should have their wages subsidised if they are not capable of doing the job. If your colleague knew you were having your wages subsidised then you would be treated differently because it automatically suggests that you are different to them for some reason, so it changes the whole social dynamic of the group. I don’t know why you can’t see that?! If the Government really want to help disabled people fit in then they should increase education and increase benefits so that people who have disabilities can afford to go out and mix with who they want.

  28. Posted 21/10/2014 at 09:39 | Permalink

    Err…. no. Again you seem clinically unable to differentiate between someone being worth less *as a person* and worth less “to an employer*.

    Everyone, disabled or not, has different worths in different situations. I am extremely valuable to employers as a computer programmer and totally worthless as an artist (I can barely draw a straight line !). I doubt I am worth 20p as an artist let alone the NMW.

    Labour thugs (mainly interested in propping up their idiot leader) are trying to conflate this with the idea of someone’s worth as a *person*. If Freud had said the disabled were worth less *as people* he would be rightly condemned, but he clearly did not.

    You miss the whole point, again. People who have disabilities want to contribute, want to be part of a working environment, want to feel that they are useful to an employer and/or society, that they are like everyone else as far as possible. It is not simply about the money or being able to ‘go out’. It is about having a raison d’etre, not feeling like you are sitting on your rear end consuming taxpayers money waiting to die, about going out and making friends, relationships, enjoying stuff. It is about living.

    My experience is that other employees do not mind that they are “treated differently”, because it is usually obvious why, and make efforts to include them as subtly as possible. (In many cases of course, they are treated just like any other employee – it is the more significant disabilities that are under discussion where the disability significantly impacts on the ability to perform in the work place). Almost everyone (excluding, apparently, the Labour party) is pleased to see the significantly disabled out there living alongside everyone else.

    You seem to have an obsession with extending the argument. Saying that a significantly disabled person may have less value to an employer because of their disability is not remotely akin to calling them “spastics and retards”. Though in actuality the problem with the use of those phrases is not the actual use itself, but the appropriation of them as a term of abuse, which tends to be cyclical.

  29. Posted 21/10/2014 at 10:02 | Permalink

    I am not sure and maybe we are arguing the same point. Like you I would not be good artist and no-one would employ me, but I would like to think that I am a good cognitive neuropsychology researcher and lecturer, which I should be working as. However, I would not want to be hired as a lecturer just because my employer could technically pay me less than someone who has not got a disability. I would feel that I was using my disability to get a job, which I might not have been offered if I was not in a wheelchair or had a disability. That is my point that no-one should be treated any differently in the work place for any reason at all. When I do my research I chose to work more than 50 hours a week to finish it on time… but this is my choice and I would not want to compensated for it just because it takes me longer to type because I need dictate. I am not sure if there is any difference between the Tories and Labour when it comes to tackling disability inequality. I just feel that if someone cannot do the job for whatever reason then the Government should not subsidise them just so the employer hires someone on the cheap who might not be as productive as other people and who might get bullied.

  30. Posted 21/10/2014 at 13:40 | Permalink

    You wouldn’t be employed *because* they can pay you less, you’d be employed because your allegedly lower personal productivity is compensated by a lower rate. Result (in theory) is neutral, and you’re suddenly competitive against the able-bodied. Just like a handicap horserace (if using that word isn’t also deemed insulting!). We are all treated differently in the workplace because we all have different productivity, so this demand for total equality is fantasy. Your determination to deny the disabled access to the real workplace is dismaying; I could almost understand if some hideous capitalist (I guess youd say like me) didn’t want low productivity people around, but we’re now living in the bizarre World where a guy like Freud appeals for ways the government can neutralise the disabled persons inherent poor productivity and thereby get them into the workplace, and gets smashed for it, and a guy like you wants them dumped in fantasy jobs in gulags for the disabled away from able-bodied people and considers himself a champion of the disabled. Truly bonkers!

  31. Posted 21/10/2014 at 15:29 | Permalink

    Thank you, I use to own race horses and the whole idea of handicapping them was if they were capable of winning races at a lower class then they would receive a reduction in weight if they moved up in class. So if we used the same analogy for people with disabilities then if these people could perform a lower class job equal to their counterparts, then they might be eligible for an increase in ways to get them to next level of employment and get some kind of subsidy from the Government to prove that they were capable of performing the role. However, this is not what Lord Freud was proposing, he was basically proposing (to use the horse racing analogy) putting a seaside donkey in the Grand National; knowing that no-one would put any money on it and that no-one would want to ride it. To continue the analogy all the other jockey’s would laugh at the horse because they knew it was not capable of jumping the first fence. This is my point, if you had ten seaside donkeys and one older hack then they might have a chance of winning the race without feeling totally useless. Before anyone gets on my back I am not saying that people with severe learning difficulties or severe physical disabilities are donkeys, it is just an analogy. The whole point of work is that the worker wants to feel good in the eyes of their co-workers, so if you put someone who is really unable to perform a task in a group of other people who can perform it expertly how will this benefit the individual with a severe disability? It won’t, it will make them feel inferior…Its like putting me in the Manchester United starting 11, I know I would be no good and I would get told off by my team mates which would not help myself, even if I was getting subsidised by the Government for 90K a week! That is my point, do not put people in jobs that they cannot perform to an equal level as their able-bodied counterparts.

  32. Posted 21/10/2014 at 17:06 | Permalink

    “I am not sure if there is any difference between the Tories and Labour when it comes to tackling disability inequality”

    Well, when the Labour party suggested a similar scheme it wasn’t used for political advantage.

    “That is my point that no-one should be treated any differently in the work place for any reason at all”

    This is never going to happen. How on earth do you decide whether something is a disability or not ; do I have a “disability” in Art – poor perception or final motor skills maybe ?

    Its actually much easier for a physical disability but for someone functioning at a lower mental level it is near impossible to say where a ‘disability’ begins and ends. I’ve worked with many children who cannot function at a very high level, and many children who theoretically could but are just not very academic.

    It is quite reasonable to raise concerns that such a plan could be used to cut/subsidise salaries, and nobody wants that unless it actually works in the purpose of getting significantly disabled people into employment, but there was no effort on the part of the Labour party to say anything like this, they just launched into “Freud is evil” which he clearly is not. If the idea he suggested has problems which make it unworkable – it might – , his heart is in the right place ; you have to be utterly deluded to think that his comments are not about trying to improve the employment chances for the disabled.

    Labour, it should be pointed out, want a champion of the disabled sacked so they can pretend their incompetent leader has some purpose in life.

  33. Posted 22/10/2014 at 05:42 | Permalink

    Your analogies are poor and betray a lot of issues of your own. At a lower cost the person would indeed be equivalently productive, and most people are far kinder than your outlook allows for – after all, aren’t I a nasty capitalist yet I’d like to be able to help. It’s clear that these matters of your own cloud your views, which is a pity. If opportunities can be created for other disabled people let them have the chance to try; trying and sometimes failing is part of life and growth, precisely what made up tasks in community centres won’t do. You have no alternative apart from more handouts, more dependency, more isolation. Not good enough.

  34. Posted 22/10/2014 at 09:52 | Permalink

    First, with regards to both comments, we already have something in place which is called “Access to Work”. People are assessed on their ability to complete the job and then the Government will fund any equipment or support that the person with the disability needs to do the job to the same capability. Secondly, I don’t think I have called Lord Freud “evil”, I just do not agree with the concept of the Government subsidising someone with a severe disability to do a job which they are technically not capable of doing. If someone could not speak English, should this person also be subsidised because they have got a inability to do the job at the same level as their counterparts? This is my point, where do you draw the line on how much the Government will subsidise and who will they subsidise? We have a situation at the moment where people are being assessed to see if they are disabled and whether they can work… This has cost the Government £200,000,000 to hire a company to produce a completely illogical questionnaire which tries to cover all types of disability but cannot do so. The £200,000,000 will have been better spent on increasing awareness about disability and producing more schemes where severely disabled can get out and about and mix with the general public. I do not see how Lord Freud’s idea is promoting equality and how it will really work? If I went for a lectureship which are normally about £20 per hour, so could a University turn round and hire me for £9 an hour and then expect the Government to fork out £11 per hour to subsidise me and another £9 per hour for my PA? If they will do that then great, I could get a job tomorrow… But I would not feel equal to my co-workers because I will know that I only go the job because University could hire me on the cheap because I have a disability! Why can’t anyone see that point?

  35. Posted 22/10/2014 at 12:28 | Permalink

    This whole discussion seems to have reached a getting-knickers-in-twist stage. If 1/10th the energy spent on it is worthwhile, I can’t see it. Life is not fair, and no amount of government money will make it so. Some people can do some jobs, and some can’t. (Oh, and there is no “government” money anyway, only another taxpayer’s. Out.

  36. Posted 22/10/2014 at 12:44 | Permalink

    Hi anonymous…The Government does not only raise money through tax but also through borrowing, so I don’t quite understand you comment. People with disabilities only want equality, they just don’t want to be subsidised for work that they cannot do on an equal level as their counterparts… That is the point!

  37. Posted 22/10/2014 at 13:40 | Permalink

    Sadly, many disabled people are not equal when it comes to productivity. Harsh, but fact. As for your analogy, when are you going to get it? THE UNIVERSITY / EMPLOYER WOULDN’T BE GETTING YOU “ON THE CHEAP”. Your productivity would be deemed low and the rate would just bring you back all square – they would be restored to normal unit cost. So the idea costs the government? So what? It costs them to leave you sat at home or in a community hall doing a made up job, may as well pay a little LESS and see you out & about. Anyway, fine, stay at home and whine about benefits, I’ve got other things to do.

  38. Posted 22/10/2014 at 17:01 | Permalink

    The irony of your request is that the only way to achieve “equality” is to deliberately disable the able. I do not think that is what you realy want, is it ?

    And wages is a reflection of worth in a specific field. I cannot paint van Goghs, so I cannot expect my scribblings to sell for millions. All the work I can find is part-time, min-wage, I used to get far more than that, but I am no longer worth that kind of money. Do I rise up and protest ? No. I am much older and worth less to employ, suits me fine. And ravings are just a waste of energy.

  39. Posted 23/10/2014 at 09:00 | Permalink

    Bogbrush, I am not sitting at home moaning about benefits, I am doing voluntary research which will improve my CV so that I can get employed as an equal and not as a subsidised unproductive worker because I am not unproductive. If someone is unproductive and has not got a disability they will get sacked, so why should it be different for someone who has a disability? Regarding the other comment, I sort of agree with you in one way; if you are not productive or very good at that job you go and do a different job which you are capable of… That is my point IF SOMEONE IS NOT CAPABLE OF DOING THE JOB THEN THEY SHOULD NOT GET THE JOB! I am sick of this discussion because we will never agree with each other.

  40. Posted 23/10/2014 at 10:04 | Permalink


    Fine, then you are condemning large numbers of disabled people to permanent unemployment.

  41. Posted 23/10/2014 at 11:13 | Permalink

    If you can’t work you can’t work, thats why we have got the welfare system. What your suggesting is that people go and sit in work and don’t do anthing because they can’t?! How will that make them feel worthwhile?!

  42. Posted 23/10/2014 at 13:49 | Permalink

    Anon – it is fine, except when the employer is legally bound to pay you the same wage. then it gets messy and sad. As for Almond, well he’s made it clear he’s quite happy for disabled people to be stuffed into voluntary work away for able-bodied people. Nice. Now he’s exaggerated it to be “sit in work and don’t do anything”, which is obviously stupid as no subsidy could equalise that productivity gap. I’ve seen this working in Holland, its good for all.

  43. Posted 23/10/2014 at 13:51 | Permalink

    They can work with adjustments in some cases. Some people will need support in the work place. Sometimes that need will be a one off (say for example making the workplace wheelchair friendly) sometimes it may be a repeating need, having someone to come in and support them. It depends.

    With this support they can make a practical real contribution. The problem is because of their disability it may well be ‘worth less’ to an employer, who in a straight contest is likely to pick a person without disabilities on economic grounds.

    As for how does it make them feel worthwhile, well, you obviously don’t know many disabled people, apparently.

    The majority want to contribute as far as they can – they are often hugely enthusiastic workers – and sitting watching TV on benefits is not what they want.

  44. Posted 24/10/2014 at 09:28 | Permalink

    I have never said that people with disabilities should not work and I totally agree that the majority of people with a disability can work and the Government should pay for any adjustments to sort it so the person can work on equal footing. I know a lot of people with physical or learning difficulties and disabilities and the majority of them work, go to University or go to community groups where they mix with able-bodied people. I have severe cerebral palsy and I need someone with me all the time when I am working, it does not make me less productive. However, I know of people with learning disabilities, psychological conditions or a combination of physical and learning disabilities, who could simply not cope with going to work. The whole point was Lord Freud was talking about the severely disabled people, not the people like me or someone who has a very minor learning difficulty but can totally hold down a job with some assistance from Access to Work…He was talking about people with severe learning difficulties or very severe physical difficulties who cannot match their able-bodied counterparts. So what happens if one of these people are working in a team and their disability is slowing down the productivity of the whole team? The other team members are not going to be happy and will need to work harder, and the person with the disability will feel guilty because he/she knows that they are holding back the team. I have seen this in the real world where people with severe learning difficulties work voluntarily but they do not mix with the other workers because of their disability. I don’t know if you think this is fair or not, but I don’t and I don’t think people should be subjected to this type of behaviour. In fact, the person stopped working and now goes to a community centre with other people who have learning difficulties and able-bodied volunteers who understand the disability…She is much happier, has many more friends and is not isolated anymore.

  45. Posted 29/10/2014 at 08:41 | Permalink

    Bravo. I said much the same on my blog, except that why should Freud’s proposal only apply to the disabled? The logic depends on the lack of employment opportunity. Replace the minimum wage with a minimum income for all.

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