Therese Coffey MP: No-one should be barred from pursuing a career because of a disability
The Government is encouraging employers to think differently about disability, aiming to achieve inclusivity and equal opportunity for disabled people in the workplace, writes Therese Coffey MP.
Everyone should be able to get on in work and ensuring no-one is barred from pursuing a career because of a disability or health condition is a priority of mine.
Our workforce is changing - more people from underrepresented groups in our society are taking up positions at all levels, and since records began there are more disabled people in work than ever before - increasing by 1.15 million over the last six years.
And there is more good news, with new figures revealing that 29,000 entrepreneurs with a self-declared disability have set up businesses through our New Enterprise Allowance scheme since 2011. Helping unemployed people become their own boss as a route off benefits, the scheme offers claimants a personal business mentor, weekly living allowance and funding of up to £25,000 for their business idea.
But we know there is still more to do.
For our society to be truly inclusive, disabled people must be given equal access to the opportunities out there, whether that’s setting up their own business or working for an employer.
That’s why this Government is also supporting businesses to be inclusive employers.
Our Disability Confident campaign marks its third anniversary this weekend with the milestone achievement of reaching over 15,000 sign-ups.
It aims to challenge perceptions of what it means to employ a disabled person. It encourages employers to think differently about disability and to take action to improve how they attract, recruit, retain and develop disabled employees.
Some of Britain's biggest employers – such as KPMG, Tesco, Royal Mail, Sainsbury’s, GlaxoSmithKline and Channel 4 – are already Disability Confident.
Disability Confident is not a box ticking exercise. It raises awareness of the skills and talents disabled people can bring by educating employers and giving them the right tools and techniques to recruit and retain staff.
Becoming Disability Confident is just the start of a journey to becoming a more inclusive employer – and there is more we all need to do as a society as we work towards our goal to see more one million more disabled people in work by 2027.
We’re already hearing the benefits of the scheme with a survey of Disability Confident employers suggesting 49 percent of them had recruited at least one person with a disability or health condition as a result of the scheme, rising to 66 percent amongst larger employers.
To mark the anniversary, we are introducing a series of changes to further help businesses achieve their goal of workplace inclusivity.
Membership at all levels has been extended to three years to allow businesses more time to develop and improve internal processes. And businesses at the highest level of the scheme will now be required to hire disabled people to qualify, and will need to use a voluntary reporting framework that will make their progress public.
Smart employers understand that there is a huge pool of skilled, determined, and hardworking talent looking for an opportunity. Working with businesses, we will help them unlock this potential.
Work has the power to unleash our talents. It puts food on the table, is good for well-being, offers financial independence, lifts living standards and empowers families. It helps build strong communities.
I am calling on all businesses to take a look at their record on disability employment and think about what they can do to help inclusive employment and create a more equal Britain.
Therese Coffey is a Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.