'Outcomes for Disabled People in the UK: 2020' (spoiler: they're not great)

Disability, Inclusion -

'Outcomes for Disabled People in the UK: 2020' (spoiler: they're not great)

This morning, the ONS published their report ‘Outcomes for Disabled People 2020’, which provides a snapshot of the realities experienced by disabled people across a variety of areas, including wellbeing, employment, and social participation.

In news that won’t shock many members of the disabled community, there are significant disparities between disabled and non-disabled people in most of these areas. Statistician Josephine Foubert of the ONS’ census and disability analysis team, commented:

“An important part of ONS’s work is to identify inequalities in society. As today’s findings show, there are some stark differences between the experience of disabled and non-disabled people, from education and work to the experience of crime, including domestic abuse.”

Here are some of the ‘highlights’ (if you can call them that):


Around half of disabled people aged 16 to 64 years (52.1%) in the UK were in employment compared with around 8 in 10 (81.3%) for non-disabled people (July to September 2020). By impairment, autistic people had the lowest employment rate.

The National Autistic Society have published a guide for autistic people seeking work, which you can find here.

Civic Engagement

A higher proportion of disabled people aged 16 years and over in England were involved in civic participation (41.5%), such as signing a petition or attending a public rally, than non-disabled people (35.1%) (year ending March 2019). Is it fair to surmise that the disabled community, as a marginalised community, feel they have to constantly advocate for their rights? Are non-disabled people, having many things easier, less likely to because it doesn’t directly affect them?

If you haven’t read this blog post from Shona Louise, which is highly relevant to these statistics, please do – especially if you’re a non-disabled person.


Disabled people’s (aged 16 to 64 years) average well-being ratings in the UK were poorer than those for non-disabled people for happiness, worthwhile and life satisfaction measures; average anxiety levels were higher for disabled people at 4.47 out of 10, compared with 2.91 out of 10 for non-disabled people (year ending June 2020).

Given that some of this research was gathered during the pandemic, it is unsurprising that disabled people’s anxiety levels were higher than non-disabled people’s (although non-disabled people also had poorer wellbeing levels in general compared in the year ending June 2020 than they did in the year ending June 2019). Consider this other statistic, also from the ONS: “Between 24 January and 20 November 2020 in England, the risk of death involving Covid-19 was higher for disabled men than non-disabled men. For disabled women, the risk of death was also higher than non-disabled women.”

So, definitely not surprising that disabled people would be more anxious than their non-disabled counterparts!

And when it comes to loneliness, the figures speak volumes: “The proportion of disabled people (13.9%) aged 16 years and over in England, who reported feeling lonely ‘often or always’ was almost four times that of non-disabled people (3.8%) (year ending March 2019).” When you look at these figures in a more granular way, the evidence suggests, the more severe your impairment, the lonelier you are likely to feel:

“Disabled people who stated that their ability to carry out day-to-day activities is ‘limited a lot’ reported feeling lonely more often (23.6%) compared with disabled people who were ‘limited a little’ (9.2%), a significant difference of 14.4 percentage points.”

Some of the reasons for this are likely to be practical – lack of accessibility, for example, but there is also a social cause. According to Sense, a charity, 49% of non-disabled people feel that they do not have anything in common with disabled people, and 26% admit to avoiding engaging them in conversation! Blogger Sarah Alexander spoke with Refinery29 about this issue in this article from a couple of years ago.

Domestic Abuse

Around 1 in 7 (14.3%) disabled people aged 16 to 59 years in England and Wales experienced domestic abuse in the last 12 months, compared with about 1 in 20 (5.1%) non-disabled people; disabled women (17.5%) were more than twice as likely to experience domestic abuse in the last year than non-disabled women (6.7%) (year ending March 2020).

All incidences of domestic abuse are abhorrent. As Public Health England reported in 2015, disabled people face specific risk and are often “in particularly vulnerable circumstances that may reduce their ability to defend themselves, or to recognise, report and escape abuse.

“Impairment can create social isolation, which, along with the need for assistance with health and care and the potential increased situational vulnerabilities, raises the risk of domestic abuse for disabled people.”

Disability activists and advocates can face hostility for pointing out and railing against inequality, but the facts back them up. Disabled people do not have equality in our society and the need to keep fighting for it is clear. It is not just the community that should be fighting, either. We can all do more to demand fairness and opportunity for everyone – and we all should.


Main photo by Nguyen Minh on Unsplash

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