Our 100 Day Community Challenge to MPs on disability
We have a duty to take action and improve employers’ perception of disability, so everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential, writes Sarah Newton
It’s remarkable that the employment rate is higher than ever at 75.6%. However, the disability employment gap is still far too high, and I’m determined to ensure that people living with disabilities and health conditions who want to work have the opportunity to do so.
One way we are addressing this gap is through the Disability Confident scheme, which challenges perceptions of what it means to employ a disabled person. The scheme, developed by disabled people, employers and disability organisations, encourages employers to think differently about disability and to take action to improve how they attract, recruit and retain disabled employees.
The benefits for employees working for Disability Confident businesses are wide ranging. Mark is a valued employee of KPMG and he is registered blind. He told us that an employer’s attitude can be just as important as physical workplace adjustments. Mark needs to have regular medical appointments, and he says working for an employer who offers him flexibility is incredibly reassuring.
Employers who have already signed up are also clear that there are many benefits to being Disability Confident. Sainsbury’s has told us that it’s committed to knowing its customers better than anyone else, and that a vital part of being able to achieve this is by having a truly diverse workforce that is reflective of the UK population.
As fellow MPs, I’m asking you to get involved. There are around seven million working age people who are disabled in the UK, a population roughly the size of Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds combined. We have a duty to them – a significant proportion of our constituents – to take action and improve employers’ perceptions of disability, so everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential, including in employment.
This month I’m launching the 100 Day Community Challenge, which will see MPs across the country pledging to take action in their constituency to sign up local employers to Disability Confident. There is a whole package of support available for MPs taking part. We will provide you with contact details for local employers to speak to, your local Jobcentre Plus will be working alongside you, and you will be given a dedicated point of contact in the Disability Confident team to support you along the way.
Over 6,500 employers across the UK have already signed up to Disability Confident. I’m pleased that the public sector has been leading the way, with all Government departments now having achieved Disability Confident Leader status. Disabled people can bring a wealth of skills and talents to an organisation, and smart employers are making sure that they’re not missing out on this untapped pool of talent.
I’m pleased that 600,000 more disabled people have moved into work over the last four years. But there is more to do. I want to ensure that Disability Confident is having an effect on the number of disabled people organisations are recruiting, so as part of our evaluation of the scheme we will be interviewing employers to assess the impact that the scheme has had on helping more disabled people find and stay in work.
Disability Confident offers support for employers who might lack the confidence to recruit disabled people, or might need guidance to support an employee who has acquired a disability during their working life. There is a wide range of support available, including expert advice, business-to-business workshops, useful toolkits and events.
I look forward to seeing the results of the 100 Day Community Challenge, and I hope that MPs will lead the way in sending a powerful message to disabled people across the country that they can get the support they need to thrive in the workplace.
To find out more about the 100 Day Community Challenge, please email email@example.com
Sarah Newton is MP for Truro and Falmouth and Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work