While we have near record levels of people in employment, too many disabled people are missing out. We want everyone to have the opportunity to go as far as their talents can take them – not just to benefit those who have the skills and desire to work, but also to ensure employers are not missing out on vital skills.
As I began my new role as Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, I was surprised to learn that around one in six working aged adults report having a disability. During the last two weeks, I’ve seen some of the excellent work underway to improve employment opportunities for disabled people. I heard from employers from across the country who are creating opportunities for disabled people and ensuring they don’t miss out on the full range of local talent.
Behind the numbers are individual people and it is inspiring to meet disabled employees who are thriving in the workplace thanks to a supportive environment and small adjustments that help them to do their job. Many employers already have a strong track record in this area, which is why we are encouraging a business to business approach where organisations can learn from each other.
A range of government support is on offer from our Access to Work service, which provides disabled people with support or adjustments they need in the workplace, to the Disability Confident scheme, which helps employers do more to recruit and retain disabled workers. To date more than 5,000 employers have signed up to Disability Confident. Across the country, there are almost 600,000 more disabled people in work than there were in 2013. I’m determined to build on this so that everyone has the chance to fulfil their potential.
While we have made progress on disability employment in recent years, there’s still much more to do. Last October the Government consulted through our Work, Health and Disability Green Paper on what needs to be done to support more disabled people into employment. We asked for views from disabled people, employers, charities and others on how we can change attitudes among employers as well as improving local services so that we can break down the barriers disabled people still face in the labour market.
Today we launch our bold 10 year vision to see one million more disabled people in work by 2027. Our strategy on the future of work, health and disability brings together employers, the welfare system and health services. We will not only support disabled people and people with health conditions to enter work, but also focus on preventing people from having to leave employment with supporting them to stay in work. No two people are the same and we will be testing and evaluating new approaches to find out what works best.
The change needed is not one Government can deliver alone. We all have a part to play in creating the culture change that’s needed. Only by coming together, working together, will we be able to improve all our working lives by creating more inclusive, good working environments.
First published in the Times