International Day for Persons with Disabilities

Monday was the International Day for Persons with Disabilities. It is a United Nations-led day, and the theme this year is “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality”. 

To mark this occasion, I launched a new stakeholder engagement forum to bring the voices of disabled people closer to Government, especially those living outside London. I also launched a call for new Sector Champions to improve accessibility of services for disabled people. 

I often meet disabled people who tell me about the challenges they face in work, using services, or simply trying to buy goods in a store or online. For retailers, this is a lost opportunity as they are missing out on £249 billion annual spend of disabled people and their families. 

I believe these initiatives will contribute to delivering our vision to create a society that works for everyone, where all can participate fully and be included, and to our progress on implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

The Network will create face to face and online forums for disabled people to share their views and experiences about policies and services that affect disabled people and will complement existing stakeholder relationships across Government. I hope local people will join our regional network. 

To bring about change, my Ministerial Retail Forum was instrumental in supporting the UK’s first ‘Purple Tuesday’ on 13 November 2018. It was funded and organised by the disability organisation Purple. Over 500 organisations signed up to take part, of which 50 were disability organisations. Hundreds of thousands of retail staff engaged in accessibility and inclusivity initiatives, supported by a range of campaign resources to help improve retail awareness of what good customer service means for disabled people. The venture was popular with the public too: it trended on Twitter and was reported by many major news and broadcast networks. 

The new Sector Champions for the countryside and heritage, product design, website accessibility, fashion, technology, food and drink will build on the work of my current 14 Sector Champions who work across diverse sectors – from music to insurance, and from arts and culture to transport.  They use their influential status as leaders to drive improvements to the accessibility and quality of services and facilities in their sector. 

Finally, I was pleased to work with Channel 4 and Purple Space, who have, together with a range of Disability Confident employers, produced a short film entitled “I don’t work properly”.  The film features disabled colleagues from a range of Disability Confident organisations talking about disability employment, along with Last Leg presenter and comedian Adam Hills. Channel 4 has created a destination www.Channel4.com/purple to accompany the film and act as an information hub for those interested in disability employment challenges. You can also view the film at: https://youtu.be/sIxNyE6IHhI 

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There are still too many areas where disabled people are regularly excluded

Imagine you went to the shops tomorrow and the shutters were down. Now imagine you tried to buy a concert ticket but the website was closed for business. Would you be happy?

Of course you wouldn’t. But for thousands of disabled people in this country getting access to services is a trial of endurance. Spending billions of pounds to boost our economy is a trial of endurance.

That’s why today, International Day for Persons with Disabilities, I’m focused on a top priority – to stop disabled people from being excluded from the everyday activities that many people take for granted, while also helping businesses realise that it’s in their interest to include their disabled customers.

With the spending power of disabled people and their households – the Purple Pound – estimated at almost £250 billion each year, it’s a no brainer.

Our sector champions are tackling the issues facing disabled consumers across every area of their lives, from seeing themselves represented in TV adverts to ensuring stress-free train travel.

Our music champion, Suzanne Bull, has launched a new industry taskforce aimed at improving the experience for deaf and disabled customers when booking tickets for live music events.

Meanwhile, our insurance champion Johnny Timpson is bringing together representatives from the insurance industry, regulatory bodies and charities for the first time to look at how to make the sector more accessible to disabled people. This is a great step forward, and begins to tackle an issue disabled people and my constituents often raise with me, that they are denied insurance or charged a premium that they believe does not reflect the true impact of their condition.

And last month I worked with Mike Adams, CEO of Purple, and our retail champion Samantha Sen to launch Purple Tuesday, the UK’s first ever accessible shopping day. It was a huge success, with hundreds of thousands of retail staff, up and down the country, taking action to demonstrate their commitment to including all of their customers.

But there are still too many areas where disabled people are regularly excluded.

Just last week a Citizens Advice survey found that almost one in three disabled people have missed a home delivery because they were not given enough time to get to the door.

And we know that disabled people are almost ten times as likely to report being limited in taking part in leisure activities compared to non-disabled people.

So today, I have announced that I want to appoint six new champions to build on the successes we’ve seen so far.

The new champions will cover the technology, food and drink, website accessibility, fashion, countryside and heritage and product design sectors.

By showing other businesses the importance of making disabled customers a priority, our new champions will ensure disabled people aren’t missing out on the experiences and services that form an integral part of our everyday lives, whether that’s socialising with friends or keeping up with the latest trends.

Access is inextricably linked to opportunity, and it’s important that everyone plays their part in ensuring disabled consumers can spend their money wherever and whenever they want to – just like everyone else.

First published in Politics Home 03/12/18

We must ensure all disabled people who want to work have the opportunity to do so

It’s great news to see there are now more disabled people in work than out, and over the last five years 973,000 disabled people have entered employment. This is really encouraging, but we know there’s more to do to build on this progress and to ensure that all disabled people who want to work have the opportunity to do so.

Key to our approach is changing people’s minds, by showcasing the benefits of having a diverse workforce and the contribution that people with disabilities can make in any workplace.

The Government’s free employment scheme, Disability Confident is fast approaching the milestone of 10,000 businesses having signed up, an increase of over 4,000 in the last year alone. New research, published this week, shows that half of all Disability Confident employers have recruited at least one disabled person since joining the scheme, rising to 66% amongst larger employers. It’s great to see the scheme creating real opportunities for disabled people.

The Disability Confident scheme is intended to lead employers on a journey, so they will continue to enhance their disability employment ‘offer’. We commissioned research to assess what exactly is driving forward behavioural change among Disability Confident employers, while highlighting areas for improvement.

What really struck me about the results were the reasons employers listed for adopting more inclusive recruitment practices to attract more disabled staff. ‘Widening the pool of talent’ was the biggest reason UK businesses gave, while one in five simply said it ‘seemed like the right thing to do’.

With around a fifth of the working age population living with a disability or health condition, it’s important that we empower employers to be open in discussing any misconceptions they may have, to ensure they can discuss with experts and their peers how employing a disabled person can benefit their business.

We want to make life easier for disabled jobseekers, which is why they are now able to search for jobs displaying the Disability Confident badge on our new Find A Job website, with more than 8,000 Disability Confident vacancies currently listed.

Tailored support which enables disabled people to reach their full potential at work is key to our approach and Access to Work scheme, provides people with up to £57,200 a year to help with any workplace adjustments they may need. This can include assistive technology, transport or interpreters. Recent statistics show that last year we supported a record number of people through the scheme, including more young people and those with learning disabilities and mental health conditions.

Our own research, published today, shows that Access to Work is highly valued by users, but we are not complacent: we know there is always more to do to improve the support provided. That’s why we’re taking forward a range of measures to evolve the scheme so it supports as many people as possible.

We will be extending eligibility for the scheme to those with drug and alcohol addiction, and earlier this year we announced a new Tech Fund – making it easier for disabled employees to benefit from the innovation assistive technology can enable.

And we’re also introducing a new Access to Work workplace adjustment ‘passport’. This will provide people with a record of their adjustments so that a new employer will have a clear understanding of their requirements.

I’m committed to ensuring that people feel their needs are understood and are dealt with sensitively, and that’s at the heart of the Government’s agenda.

That’s why we’ve launched disability-specific specialist teams, who offer customers with impairments such as hearing or sight loss tailored support. We’re also taking forward improvements to the Access to Work digital service.

We know that employers and disabled people themselves know best what they need and can identify any gaps which need to be addressed. That’s why we’re listening, and constantly improving our services.

First published in PoliticsHome 16/11/18

https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/health-and-care/illnesstreatments/opinion/house-commons/99884/sarah-newton-mp-we-must-ensure

Purple Tuesday

Shopping is an integral part of our day-to-day lives, from heading to the supermarket to get the groceries to looking for gifts for loved ones on your local high street.

Sadly, there are often barriers that prevent shopping from being an enjoyable experience for disabled people.

A poll by disability organisation Purple found that more than half of the disabled people they surveyed were concerned about overcrowding. A similar proportion said they had left a store or abandoned a purchase because of a poor customer experience.

Many of us often choose to shop online thanks to advances in technology, but poor access can extend to the internet. For example, some people miss deliveries because they haven’t been given enough time to answer the door.

While these issues are felt even more acutely in the fast-approaching peak Christmas shopping period, inadequate access isn’t limited to the festive season.

A lack of provision of facilities such as Changing Places toilets can mean that disabled people might just choose to stay at home, rather than getting out and socialising, while poor staff awareness can make shopping more hassle than it’s worth.

Businesses that don’t make reasonable adjustments to accommodate disabled customers not only risk breaking the law, but they are also missing out on the £249 billion spending power of disabled people and their families.

In my experience, most businesses aren’t intentionally excluding their disabled customers – they just need more guidance to help them become more inclusive.

That’s why I’m joining forces with Purple for the UK’s first ever accessible shopping day on Tuesday 13 November. The day will see retailers – in store and online – introducing new measures to make shopping a more inclusive experience, sending a powerful message that they care about all their customers and that their business matters.

It’s often the small changes that can make a big difference to people’s experiences. Providing staff with disability awareness training, becoming Disability Confident and having clear walkways can all help improve the shopping experience for disabled customers.

More than 100 retailers are already involved with Purple Tuesday, including some of the UK’s most recognised names such as Sainsbury’s, Marks and Spencer and Argos.

Purple Tuesday is a significant step forward in showing retailers how important it is to recognise the needs of their disabled customers. By working together with disability charities and businesses, I’m confident that we can create the culture shift that is needed to ensure disabled people no longer miss out.

Find out more about Purple Tuesday at www.purpletuesday.org.uk, and Disability Confident at https://disabilityconfident.campaign.gov.uk/. You can share your experiences on social media using #PurpleTuesday.

First published in Able magazine

http://ablemagazine.co.uk/minister-for-disabled-people-sarah-newton-talks-about-accessible-shopping-and-purple-tuesday/

Removing barriers to disabled people on our high streets

Shopping is an integral part of our day-to-day lives, from heading to the local shops or supermarket to get our groceries to looking for clothes and gifts on our high streets and villages. 

Sadly, there are often barriers that prevent shopping from being an enjoyable experience for disabled people and those with health conditions. 

A poll by disability organisation Purple found that more than half of the disabled people they surveyed were concerned about overcrowding. A similar proportion said they had left a store or abandoned a purchase because of a poor customer experience. 

Many people often choose to shop online thanks to advances in technology, but poor access can extend to the internet. For example, some people miss deliveries because they haven’t been given enough time to answer the door. 

While these issues are felt even more acutely in the fast-approaching peak Christmas shopping period, inadequate access isn’t limited to the festive season. 

A lack of provision of facilities such as Changing Places toilets can mean that disabled people might just choose to stay at home, rather than getting out and socialising, while poor staff awareness can make shopping more hassle than it’s worth. 

Businesses that don’t make reasonable adjustments to accommodate disabled customers not only risk breaking the law, but they are also missing out on the £249 billion spending power of disabled people and their families. 

In my experience, most businesses aren’t intentionally excluding their disabled customers – they just need more guidance to help them become more inclusive. Many people tell me that they are worried about saying or doing the wrong thing. 

That’s why I’m joining forces with Purple for the UK’s first ever accessible shopping day on Tuesday 13 November. The day will see retailers – in store and online – introducing new measures to make shopping a more inclusive experience, sending a powerful message that they care about all their customers and that their business matters. 

It’s often the small changes that can make a big difference to people’s experiences. Providing staff with disability awareness training and making simple changes such as having quiet hours or clear walkways can all help improve the shopping experience for disabled customers. 

More than 100 national retailers are already involved with Purple Tuesday, including some of the UK’s most recognised names such as Sainsbury’s, Marks and Spencer and Argos. 

Purple Tuesday is a significant step forward in showing retailers how important it is to recognise the needs of their disabled customers. Purple have produced a website of free information, tools and marketing materials so any retailer can join in and serve all their customers well.  

You can find out more about Purple Tuesday at www.purpletuesday.org.uk . I hope that more local retailers will join Purple Tuesday so that they can benefit from the spending power of disabled people and their families and show that Cornwall’s businesses are playing their part in building an inclusive community. You can share your experiences on social media using #PurpleTuesday. 

Thousands of people with poor mental health are losing their jobs

We spend much of our lives at work, but stigma can stop us from being honest with our colleagues about how we’re really feeling.

An estimated 300,000 people lose their job every year because of a mental health problem. Many might have remained in employment if they had been given the right support.

Speaking at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) today, I am calling on all senior managers, including chief executives, to make a real, tangible commitment to improving workplace culture surrounding mental health.

This isn’t an issue for other businesses to deal with, or something we can leave HR to worry about. The leaders of any organisation are pivotal in shaping its culture and exemplary behaviour has to start at the top.

The conversation around mental health has moved on substantially over the past few years, to the point that it can sometimes feel like we’re continually being bombarded. Awareness is important, but it’s not enough.

We need real cultural change in every workplace across the country to ensure that anyone experiencing poor mental health feels supported.

We’ve made good progress on supporting people with mental health conditions to get into and stay in work, with a whole range of support on offer. For example, we’re investing £115 million in partnership with the NHS, more than doubling the number of employment advisers in improving access to psychological therapies services.

Our new Work and Health Programme is investing £500 million in tailored employment support, helping disabled people and those with health conditions into a job. And our access to work scheme, which has a specialised mental health support service, has supported over 12,000 people. More than 90 per cent of people who have used the service remain in employment.

The government has an important role to play in supporting people with a mental health condition, but we can’t do this alone.

For any leader there are many ways to make mental health a priority. I want to focus on just one of these approaches by encouraging every senior manager to hold themselves accountable and agree to have one of their performance-based objectives on improving mental health.

The public sector is leading by example. The performance objectives of every permanent secretary, the top civil servant in each government department, are now linked to the mental health standards recommended in the independent Stevenson-Farmer review of mental health and employers.

This might feel daunting for some. The mental health charity Mind found that while employers wanted to make mental health a priority, a third didn’t know where to go for information or guidance.

That’s why it’s so important that today Mind is launching its new Mental Health at Work Gateway. The gateway allows employers to search resources that could support a colleague, challenge stigma, or simply learn more about mental health in the workplace.

My vision is of a society where everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential and no one loses their job because of poor mental health. It’s now time for every leader in every sector to take responsibility for creating an environment in which people feel able to disclose their mental health condition and get the help they need to thrive at work.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/it-might-feel-like-we-re-continually-being-bombarded-about-mental-health-but-workplace-culture-needs-to-change-7cbcsxrh7

Promoting equal access to our maritime environment and securing jobs at Falmouth Docks

The summer months more than others bring us closer to our stunning maritime environment and heritage. The recent glorious weather has enabled many more people to experience the simple pleasure of going to the beach or out onto the water. Thanks to many inspirational local people determined to build an inclusive community, more people are able to enjoy these simple pleasures. People with visible and invisible impairments and disabilities are able to get onto the water thanks to Mylor Harbour’s Sail-ability specially adapted boats. Also based in Mylor Harbour is BATs, Cornwall’s sailing club for visually impaired people.  I recently met with the Helford Sailing Trust to learn about their ambitious plans to get more people afloat.

Then there are the special sand chairs at Gyllingvase beach that enable wheelchair users access to the beach and the sea. Cornwall Mobility, in partnership with Disability Cornwall & Isles of Scilly, works with Cornwall Council as well as a diverse range of coastal charities and businesses in providing all-terrain wheelchairs, also known as sand chairs, for the public to use on a number of beaches in Cornwall.  The all-terrain wheelchairs have been designed for outdoor use and have large inflatable wheels which allow them to roll over sand and pebbles with remarkable ease. This has allowed people with mobility challenges the pleasure and freedom to access and enjoy Cornwall’s beaches where they may have found it more difficult in the past.

While the wide range of recreational water-based activities available are undoubtedly fun and good exercise as well as enhancing our local tourist economy, they do bring challenges. I was delighted to open the newly refurbished National Coast Watch look out in Gerrans recently.  Staffed by volunteers who work in partnership with RNLI and Coastguard volunteers as well as our local emergency services coordinated by the Falmouth Coastguard, they help keep us safe on the sea and around our shores and rescue people if necessary. Together they provide an excellent service in promoting safety of the water and preventing harm.

Thank you also to the Royal Naval Association for organising the annual Falmouth Sea Sunday, including the parade from the Moor, a service in King Charles the Martyr Church and a parade to Events Square.

My grandfather was an electrician at the docks in Falmouth and, having grown up here, I understand how proud many local people feel about our close association with seafaring and the Royal Navy. When I was first elected I had the privilege of joining the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme with the Navy. As someone who has not served in our armed forces, this first-hand experience has proven invaluable in my role as an MP supporting our armed forces.

As A&P is one of the largest private sector employers in Cornwall, ensuring that A&P Falmouth secures and wins naval and RFA contracts has been a top priority. By working hard and constructively with both the management and trade unions at A&P Falmouth I am proud of our record of achievement. Not only do RFA ships continue to be serviced and maintained in Falmouth, but we won a new and important contract to weaponise some of the support vessels for our two new aircraft carriers.

A&P Falmouth is working in partnership with other UK yards and doing well in advancing bids to secure additional defence contracts for the docks in Falmouth, including for the new Type 31 e frigate. I have launched a campaign for one of the new frigates to be called HMS Cornwall. I ensure that Defence Procurement Ministers visit A&P Falmouth to see at first hand the excellent work that is undertaken and the positive relationship that we have with the Royal Navy and RFA.

Since being elected I have consistently promoted the industry and was delighted to have secured A&P Falmouth’s involvement with the independent review of British Shipbuilding undertaken by Sir John Parker. All the recommendations he gave to the government for future modernisation and investment have been accepted and I am delighted that the importance to our economy of ports, including Falmouth, is recognised.

I am proud of the investment this government is making in our Navy and that new ships are being built in the UK.  I want to see more and I will continue to work with the unions and management at A&P to secure new contracts and welcome grey ships into our harbour.

First published in the Falmouth Wave August edition