‘Improving lives: the future of work, health and disability’ strategy

30 November 2017

The Conservative Party promised during the 2015 election to halve the gap between employment rates for people reporting a disability and people who do not by 2020. On 31 October 2016, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health launched a consultation on how to achieve this goal, publishing ‘Improving Lives: The Work, Health and Disability Green Paper'.

Green paper proposals

The green paper focused on disabled people and people with long-term health conditions. It set out the interconnected nature of health and work and highlighted that 48% of disabled people in the UK were in paid work, compared with 80% of non-disabled people.

The paper put forward proposals to address this inequality, including:

  • developing the new Personal Support Package to include an offer of targeted health and employment support
  • increasing the number of supported internships for young people with a health condition or disability by helping employers connect with schools and colleges
  • reforming the assessment process for benefits for people with health conditions by separating an individual’s assessment for financial support from any discussion about employment or health support.

Labour Party MP Debbie Abrahams criticised the green paper when it was introduced in the House of Commons, referring to its wider context and the negative impact on people with disabilities of successive cuts to work allowances and delays to introducing universal credit.

The consultation on the green paper closed in February 2017 and received 6000 responses.

Government response

On 30 November 2017, the government published its strategy Improving lives: the future of work, health and disability, which responded both to the consultation and the 2017 independent government review Thriving at Work: a review of mental health and employers.

The strategy outlined its plans across welfare, the workplace, and the health system to improve the employment opportunities of disabled people and those with long-term health conditions.

The headline commitment was the aim of supporting one million more disabled people into employment by 2027, moving the goalposts compared with the previous commitment for 2020.


On 23 July 2019, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Jackie Doyle-Price responded to questioning on the progress on implementing the strategy, stating: ‘the number of disabled people in employment is now 400,000 higher than it was in 2017. There is, however, much more to do, and on 15 July we launched a consultation on measures to reduce ill health-related job loss.’


Department for Work & Pensions, Department of Health.
Consultation: Work, health and disability: improving lives [webpage].
UK government; 2016.

Department for Work & Pensions, Department of Health.
Improving lives: the future of work, health and disability
HMSO; 2017.

House of Commons.
Improving Lives: Work, Health and Disability Green Paper: 31 October 2016, Volume 616.
Hansard; 2016.

House of Commons.
Strategy and Action Plan: Improving Lives: 23 July 2019, Volume 663.
Hansard; 2019.