Media Release

Disabled Londoners left behind in booming jobs market

Almost 400,000 Londoners with a disability are unemployed and in some boroughs only one in four disabled people is working, new research has revealed.

The capital is “wasting huge opportunities” to make its economy bigger and fairer because disabled Londoners are not being fully supported into work, the Social Market Foundation think-tank said.

New SMF research shows that despite its world-leading economy and strong job market, London is still a very difficult place for disabled people to get work. While some boroughs have a good record of helping disabled residents into the labour market, disabled people in many boroughs have been left trailing far behind other Londoners.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan should create a new Disability Employment Taskforce to address the problems disabled people face in finding a job in London, according to the SMF, which also called for a new Government drive to boost local employment rates.

The research, supported by Trust for London, shows that the employment rate for disabled people in London stands at 46.5%, meaning that around 370,000 disabled Londoners are out of work.

Overall employment in London is 85%, meaning that the capital has a “disability employment gap” of 38.5 percentage points.
That rate is slightly lower than the national average of 41.5 percentage points, but it conceals big variations, including worrying figures showing that disabled people in some parts of London find it much harder to get work than others.

In Hammersmith and Fulham, the disability employment gap stands at more than 50 points and only a quarter of disabled residents are in work.

By contrast, more than 65% of disabled people in Richmond are in work, giving the borough a disability employment gap of just 20 points.

There is also troubling variation in the employment prospects of people with different sorts of disability. People with mental health problems, who make up almost a third of all disabled people in London, are most likely to be unemployed.

The SMF found a 47.5 percentage point employment gap for people with mental health conditions: fewer than one in four people disabled by mental health issues has a job. The findings show that while awareness of mental health issues has risen significantly, the economic reality for disabled people remains extremely challenging.

The scale of the employment and the wide variations in the labour market for disabled people require a “joined up” approach driven from City Hall, the SMF said.

The Mayor of London should set up a Disability Employment Taskforce, bringing together employers and disability charities with the sole aim of increasing disability employment in the Capital.

The SMF also called on central government to help support the best local responses to the employment gap. Ministers should launch a ‘Financing Future Health” fund that offers £1 billion for pilots that aim to providing better social, health and employment support for people claiming Employment Support Allowance.


Matthew Oakley, senior SMF researcher said:

“Helping more disabled jobseekers into work is good for them and good for the economy, so these figures show that even a successful city like London is still wasting huge opportunities by not supporting disabled people better.
“The good news is that figures from some London boroughs show that it is possible for all areas to do much, much better. Sensible cooperation between the London Mayor and central government would make life better for many disabled people and deliver a bigger, fairer economy.”


Trust for London said:

“It’s great that employment rates are at a record high but not everyone is sharing in this success. Less than half of disabled Londoners are in work and the support they need to get and maintain a job is inadequate. Much greater levels of investment are needed.

“Not enough attention has been paid to the very significant differences in employment rates for disabled Londoners. Over the past decade boroughs such as Ealing and Lewisham have seen big increases in employments rates for disabled people, whilst Bromley and Croydon have seen significant declines. We need to understand why there is such variation and to improve practice.”


Notes to Editors


The report can be accessed here:

Interviews/media enquiries: Please contact Laura Webb, SMF Head of External Affairs and Partnerships on 020 7222 7060, or 07502048969 / or email


About the Social Market Foundation

The Social Market Foundation (SMF) is a non-partisan think tank. We believe that fair markets, complemented by open public services, increase prosperity and help people to live well. We conduct research and run events looking at a wide range of economic and social policy areas, focusing on economic prosperity, public services and consumer markets. The SMF is resolutely independent, and the range of backgrounds and opinions among our staff, trustees and advisory board reflects this.


About Trust for London

Trust for London is one of the largest independent charitable foundations funding work which tackles poverty and inequality in the capital. It supports work providing greater insights into the root causes of London’s social problems and how they can be overcome; activities which help people improve their lives; and work empowering Londoners to influence and change policy, practice and public attitudes. Each year it provides over £8 million in grants and at any one point is supporting some 300 voluntary and community organisations.


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