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Money available to bridge ‘disability employment gap’, says minister

Tue, 23 Jun 2015 | By Colin Cottell

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: advice@adwuk.org or tel: 0844 445 7123

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Unfortunately, Disability Confident isn't actually very disability confident and isn't addressing the issues disabled people find ourselves facing.
When I was being 'outsourced' by my former employer (after a 4 year fight to get rid of me that started when I asked for a minor reasonable adjustment in accordance with DDA, and which saw me sequentially labelled 'lazy', 'incompetent' and finally just 'disabled'), the very experienced recruiter running the process pulled me aside.
'I need you to understand something,' he said, 'that with your level of disability you have precisely no chance of getting a job in the private sector, and next to no chance in the public sector.' Other recruiters I talked to over the next year repeated the same story, of systematic disability discrimination across the entire employment market. Equally I have talked to far too many disabled people with similar experiences to believe my experience in work was anomalous. (The only anomaly is that it was with a multinational who proclaim themselves leaders on workplace equality, and that I didn't just roll over.)
With widespread disability discrimination both in recruitment and within the workplace, Disability Confident clearly needs to be actively challenging these, but unfortunately it settles for the low-hanging fruit of employers who are willing to employ disabled people, but just not very good at it. That may help a few, but at the current rate of change parity in employment rates is 80 years off* and I'm really not prepared to wait that long.
Until it challenges the actual systematic, institutionalised disability discrimination that my career and those of far too many other disabled people run head first into, Disability Confident simply isn't going to make a difference.

*looking at the full stats which show a fall in disability employment of only 20-odd thousand, not the cherry-picked 'found work' figure of 238k.

David Gillon (23/06/2015 17:55:45)

Does Recruiter have any links as to how tap into the grants available?

Ed: We will put a link up on the story later, Adam.

Adam Marchant - Wincott (24/06/2015 08:37:48)