Business leaders urge PM to tackle growing disability employment gap
By Sarah Wood
Business leaders have backed a call for the prime minister to deliver on his promise of a truly transformative National Strategy for Disabled People.
In an open letter to Boris Johnson, business leaders including Post Office CEO, Nick Read, Schroders CEO, Peter Harrison, and Clifford Chance Global Managing Partner, Matthew Layton, have all urged him to deliver an ambitious and transformative disability plan that ensures all disabled people are able to realise their full potential.
The letter is supported by the CSJ Disability Commission, an independent body, which is about to publish Now Is The Time, a ground-breaking new report designed to feed into the PM's national strategy.
One of the CSJ Disability Commission's five key recommendations is to reduce the disability employment gap by introducing mandatory workforce reporting, which it believes is a vital step in bringing greater transparency and a level playing field for measuring progress.
In the letter, the signatories say: "disabled people have waited long enough and now is the time for action". They urge the PM to show in his strategy that he has given careful consideration to the commission's recommendations and say they are read to play their part.
Here in Gloucestershire, the county council works to find sustainable employment for disabled people.
Cllr Patrick Molyneux, cabinet member for economy, education and skills at Gloucestershire County Council, said: "Our Forwards employment team supports people with disabilities of all ages to find sustainable work. Since its introduction, Forwards has supported over 400 people with disabilities to find sustainable employment. We are working closely with employers to develop inclusive workplaces and identifying the growth sectors and skills gaps which together we can address, to create opportunities and help disabled people fulfil their full potential."
Lord Shinkwin, commission chair, said: "Disabled people have been waiting an awfully long time for this. We really hope the prime minister will listen and build our recommendations into his upcoming National Strategy for Disabled People. As the PM has said, his strategy is a once in a generation opportunity. It is vital that we seize it and chart a new course that is more than just warm words. Now is the time for action."
Disabled people have been hit particularly hard by coronavirus and concerted action by government and business is crucial to reducing the disability employment gap, which has widened as a result of the pandemic. Currently, just 52 per cent of disabled people are in employment, compared with 81 per cent of non-disabled people.
The CSJ Disability Commission makes five key recommendations to reduce the gap:
• Increasing supported routes into employment
• Introducing mandatory employment and pay gap reporting
• Leveraging government procurement
• Reforming the government's Disability Confident scheme
• Reforming the government's Access to Work scheme
Importantly, the report extends beyond employment to cover four other areas of life for disabled people: transport, education, housing and access to goods and services. It makes extensive policy recommendations which, if enacted, would substantially increase the ability of disabled people to participate more fully in society and realise their potential.
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