A government minister has urged employers to take advantage of government funding to increase the numbers of disabled people in work.
Speaking at an event in London this morning to promote Disability Confident, a campaign to remove barriers to employment for disabled people, minister for disabled people Justin Tomlinson revealed that £3m of last year’s £100m Access to Work budget was unspent.
Money from the Access to Work budget can be used in a variety of ways, for example to pay for wheelchair ramps or to make other changes in the work environment, or to help with the cost of disabled people getting to work. Tomlinson urged employers to take advantage of “one of the government’s best kept secrets”.
“There is money available,” said Tomlinson, as he reiterated the government’s commitment to getting 1m more disabled people into work, thereby halving the ‘disability employment gap’. This is the gap between the 46% of disabled people who are in employment and the 79% of those without a disability who are in work.
He said that 238,000 people with disabilities found work last year, but that more needed to be done if the government was to achieve its target. “It’s about busting myths, sharing best practice and signposting you [employers] to available help,” he said.
Tomlinson spoke of his experiences running a small business. He highlighted the importance of talking to staff about their disability, and explained how by talking to a particular member of staff, he had become aware of the employee’s “low stress threshold”.
Knowing this had allowed the company to lower this individual’s stress level by ensuring his inbox was empty every night before he went home. “There are so many examples of where small changes can make a real difference,” he said.
Alice Weightman, founder of Hanson Search and networking site for freelancers The Work Crowd, highlighted the need for employers to confront their fears about disability. Among these was the fear that talking about a person’s health, for example at an interview, could lead to a claim under equality legislation.
And she spoke of the importance of persuading candidates to be open about their disabilities. “How do we engage with candidates to make them confident to talk about any disabilities or mental disabilities that they have? We need to think more creatively, because disability means diversity, which is good for business,” she said.
For help or advice with funding, contact Access to Work or tel: 0345 268 8489. Also, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or tel: 0844 445 7123
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