Government must listen to employers to close disability employment gap

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A leading disability and business membership organisation has given evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee today as part of the Committee’s inquiry into the disability employment gap.

1 in 5 people in the UK have a disability, yet only 54 per cent of disabled people are in employment, compared with 82 per cent of non-disabled people.

Angela Matthews, Head of Policy at Business Disability Forum, shared evidence from Business Disability Forum Members on their experiences of engaging with schemes to support disabled people to access and remain in work.

Angela Matthews says: “The Access to Work scheme has been a ‘job saver’ for many employees when they eventually get what they need. But the process is inaccessible, and some Access to Work advisers are making decisions about adjustments based on an out-of-date knowledge of business and IT systems.

She also highlighted that many Members welcomed mandatory workforce reporting to improve transparency but cautioned against viewing data collection as an end in itself.

Angela Matthews says: “Many of our members have told us that they would welcome reporting for the sake of transparency and indeed many are already going beyond what is required in law by doing this already. It is important to remember though that data is only one part of the picture – by itself it will not advance inclusion and improve the experience of their disabled employees but needs to be accompanied by wider system and cultural change”.

Matthews also called for better consultation with businesses on the Government’s proposed National Disability Strategy.

She said: “Business Disability Forum has fed back to the Disability Unit that businesses have not been consulted enough on this strategy. This is disappointing since so much of the Strategy’s success relies on the delivery of contracts, accessible products and services, and inclusively designed business models. There is still time for the Government to address this issue and we hope they will take onboard our comments.”

Business Disability Forum is a non-profit organisation with 350+ Members across the private and public sector. Together its Members employee 15 per cent of the UK workforce. Business Disability Forum submitted written evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee in December 2020 and was called to give oral evidence today.

Business Disability Forum is a member of the CSJ Disability Commission. The Disability Commission, chaired by Lord Shinkwin, has recently published an open letter calling on the Prime Minister to address the disability employment gap within his anticipated National Disability Strategy. The Disability Commission has also published ‘Now Is The Time’. The report makes the case for a once in a generation opportunity for improving employment opportunities for disabled people. Lord Shinkwin presented evidence from the report during the Work and Pensions Select Committee session.

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