Governments worldwide must follow the UK’s lead in mainstreaming disability
We will continue to work with our global partners, British businesses and especially disabled people to remove the obstacles that block their path, says Baroness Buscombe.
Having worked in business for much of my life, I am particularly interested in how we support disabled people into a job that is right for them.
This week I have returned to New York, where I worked as a lawyer, to deliver the United Kingdom’s national statement to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I was joined by representatives from across the globe as I set out this Government’s priorities in improving the support we provide our disabled citizens.
The UK is a global leader in empowering disabled people in all aspects of their lives. We have strong legislation in place to protect the rights of disabled people, and our progress on disability employment is something we should be proud of.
On Tuesday the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, launched an ambitious new disability inclusion strategy. We are fully supportive of this new framework which will encourage governments worldwide to follow the UK’s lead in mainstreaming disability and do more to tackle disability employment.
I loved living in New York, particularly working in its aspirational, can-do environment. But as I reflect on my time there I realise how times have rightly moved on in the workplace. Back then I would never have imagined that in 2019, disabled people would be more likely to be in work than unemployed in the UK. It is promising that there are 947,000 more disabled people in work compared to five years ago, but I want us to go further so that every single disabled person who wants to work can enjoy the opportunity of a fulfilling career.
I still have strong links to the world of business, and I can tell you that if you’re not recruiting disabled talent, your competitors probably are. We’ve partnered with more than 11,500 employers through our Disability Confident scheme to give them the tools, knowledge and confidence to hire disabled people. And it’s having a real impact – half of the employers surveyed have recruited a disabled person as a direct result of joining the scheme, rising to two thirds for larger employers. That’s thousands more real job opportunities created for disabled people across the country. We’re ambitious to build on our success, and we aim to almost double this to 20,000 by next year.
While we are working with businesses to tackle the disability employment gap we also want to ensure they’re not missing out on the spending power of disabled people and their households – the Purple Pound – which is worth a staggering £249 billion a year. So we’ve appointed 18 industry leaders, our disability champions, who are using their influential status to champion the rights of disabled consumers across a range of sectors, from insurance to advertising and music to train travel.
We will continue to work with our global partners, British businesses and especially disabled people to remove the obstacles that block their path. And we will stand with disabled people to empower them, with our focus on ability, not disability.
Baroness Buscombe is Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions.