The Disability Commission has published “Now Is The Time”, its ground-breaking new report showing how the Prime Minister can keep his promise and deliver a truly transformative strategy to greatly improve the employment prospects of disabled people.
Currently, just 52% of people with disabilities (and only 5.6% of those with a learning disability) are in employment compared with 81% of non-disabled people.
The report makes several key recommendations ahead of the publication of the Prime Minister’s much-anticipated National Strategy for Disabled People.
The Commission is chaired by disabled Conservative member of the House of Lords, Kevin Shinkwin. It comprises both disabled and non-disabled members from the business, academic, disability, and parliamentary worlds and was set up with the DFN Foundation’s backing to feed into the Prime Minister’s National Strategy for Disabled People.
In a statement released by the Commission, Lord Shinkwin said: “We have a once in a generation opportunity to improve the life chances of disabled people – we really hope the Prime Minister will consider our recommendations and adopt them in his National Strategy for Disabled People.”
According to the ONS, disabled people across the UK have been hit particularly hard by Coronavirus, including a further widening of the disability employment gap, which is why concerted action by Government and business is crucial.
The Disability Commission is an independent body backed by the Centre For Social Justice. Its’ report, “Now Is The Time”, makes five key recommendations to reduce the disability employment gap:
- Increasing supported routes into employment – high quality supported internships that involve job coaches, and learning support have been proven to be highly effective in supporting individuals with the lowest employment rates into work.
- Introducing mandatory workforce reporting – the Commission calls on the Government to realise the full benefits of workplace reporting by requiring all employers with 250+ employees to report the proportion of their workforce that is disabled. It also calls on the Government to extend the gender pay gap reporting to disability, which will enable firms to monitor whether disabled people are being given equal access to better paying, more senior roles.
- Leveraging Government procurement – the Government spends £292 billion per year buying goods and services from external suppliers. The Commission recommends recent reforms to the Public Sector (Social Value) Act are extended to require all large public sector contract award decisions to take tendering organisations’ disability employment records into account and require organisations with public contracts to increase the proportion of people with disabilities n their workforce.
- Reforming the Government’s Disability Confident scheme – to ensure all employers at the scheme’s higher levels (level 2 ‘employers’ and level 3 ‘committed’) have above a minimum percentage threshold of disabled people within their workforce.
- Reforming the Government’s Access to Work scheme – introduced in 1994, the Access to Work scheme provides funding for the adjustments people with disabilities need to perform their role and enable them to get to and from work. The Commission recommends an extensive awareness-raising campaign, reducing administrative burdens and delays within the application process, the passporting of adaptations between organisations, and, importantly, removing the annual funding cap.
National Strategy for Disabled People
Importantly, the report extends beyond employment to cover four other areas of life for people with disabilities: transport, education, housing, and access to goods and services. It makes extensive policy recommendations that, if enacted, would substantially increase the ability of disabled people to participate more fully in society and realise their potential.
Lord Shinkwin commented: “The launch of the Prime Minister’s National Strategy for Disabled People should mark an important milestone as the country recovers from the economic and social pain caused by the pandemic, which has disproportionately affected disabled people’s income, health, and employment prospects. The Commission believes that central to the Prime Minister’s strategy should be robust policies to ensure equality of opportunity in employment and to support the ability of disabled people to live independently”.
The DFN Foundation’s, founder David Forbes-Nixon, said: “Having a disabled son has opened up my eyes to the inequalities in education, employment and life chances for disabled people in the UK.
“Now is the time for action and driving real change in delivering a fairer society for all. We can’t miss this opportunity, and I hope the Commission’s recommendations, particularly in employment, will be embraced by the Prime Minister in his National Strategy for Disabled People so we can draw on this extraordinary and untapped talent pool.”