The UK government has just launched its National Disability Strategy, an initiative that aims to bridge the education, skills, and employment gap for disabled people.
The strategy’s aims
The strategy seeks to improve disability workplace inclusion and narrow the disability employment gap, where according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there is a 28% gap in the employment rate of working-age disabled people compared with working-age non-disabled people.
Government statistics have found that 56% of disabled people who were unemployed agreed or strongly agreed that they would like more support in finding a job. This shows the necessity of the strategy, which sets out “100 immediate commitments supported by £1.6bn of funding alongside an ambitious agenda for future reform.”
The strategy includes plans for an “Access to Work adjustments passport” to support the transition of young people leaving education and changing jobs, including veterans leaving the armed forces.
There will also be a consultation on whether organisations with 250 + employees should produce disability workforce reports. There is also a plan to increase the number of disabled people employed by MI5, MI6, GCHQ, the Reservists, and the civilian-military by 2030. MI6 has set an interim target of 9% by 2025.
The launch of a new “one-stop-shop” advice hub online is planned, which will be made available to disabled people and employers and provide information and advice on disability discrimination in the workplace, flexible working and rights, and obligations around reasonable adjustments.
The strategy is revealed when harnessing the full talent of the workforce and expanding the talent pipeline is essential to combat the economic fallout caused by COVID-19.
The Business Disability Forum responds
Responding to the new strategy, Business Disability Forum’s Head of Policy, Angela Matthews, said: “We welcome the launch of the long-awaited National Disability Strategy. In his foreword to the strategy, the prime minister has committed to putting disability inclusion at the heart of government. Many of the measures announced by individual government departments bring us a step closer to making that a reality.
“We particularly welcome the commitment to consider further flexible working, disability workforce reporting, and the development of an Access to Work “Passport” and their impact on disability employment. But more needs to be done to turn this from a one-year plan into a strategy that truly transforms the life chances of disabled people.
“When government departments work in isolation, different areas of disabled people’s lives – such as transport, employment, health care, homes, social care, education, leisure, social life – risk being seen as separate and unrelated. This disjointed approach is at odds with disabled people’s life experiences. Many disabled people need accessible transport to get to work and take advantage of the investment in accessible tourism that the strategy mentions. A National Disability Strategy needs to take a whole-life approach to disabled people’s lives.
“To have a long-term impact, the strategy must also be accompanied by financial investment. Much of the funding announced today is not new. The prime minister has made it clear that this is a ‘down payment’ only. We will await the Autumn Spending Review when we must see more long-term, additional funding for the strategy.
“The strategy has put disability higher on the political agenda, but it is what happens next that is important. Disabled people have raised concerns about the consultation process, which need to be addressed going forwards. For our part, Business Disability Forum will continue to work with the Government and our members to push the strategy forwards and to ensure it delivers lasting change in the lives of disabled people.”
Liam Butler, Chief Revenue Officer at HR technology firm SumTotal, said: “Discussions around diversity in the workplace are all too often focused on gender, and rarely on the need to include people with a disability. Little wonder then that a recently published survey has revealed the tough and unwelcoming employment environment that confronts disabled workers in the UK.
“With so many disabled workers in the UK saying they’ve had to stop working due to a disability or health condition, employers need to put the spotlight on the retention and progression of disabled staff so that they can identify and remove any barriers faced by disabled people in the workplace.
“If employees become disabled or have to live with a long-term health condition, it pays to be flexible and take all reasonable steps so that you can retain their valuable skills. With over 11 million people having a limiting long-term illness, impairment, or disability in the UK, initiating adjustments to support such employees should be a top priority. These changes may include a special keyboard because of arthritis, a special chair because of back problems, a designated car space, a ramp for wheelchair users, or changing working hours or patterns of work.”
To read more about the strategy, which includes more accessible housing and commuting options for disabled people, click here.