“We need to get a million more disabled people into work”, says minister

Minister for disabled people Justin Tomlinson/REX

Employers will need to hire around a million more disabled workers if the Government is to meet its target to halve the “disability gap”, according to minister for disabled people Justin Tomlinson.

Launching a new push to sign up more businesses to the Disability Confident campaign, Tomlinson highlighted how 42% of disabled people seeking work found that the biggest barrier to getting hired were misconceptions around what they would be capable of.

He claimed that the employment rate for those with disabilities has already increased by 2.5%, or 238,000 people, in the past year – but that more needs to be done to encourage employers to recruit more disabled people.

He said: “There’s a huge wealth of talent that is willing and keen to work. You may need to make some changes, but isn’t that what we do for everyone?

“There are so many places where small changes can give you a fantastic member of staff. Disabled people are more likely to be loyal, and often the only change you’ll need to make is around timing.”

He added that the Government’s commitment to offering 3 million more apprenticeships over this Parliament would help to achieve its goals around disability, thanks to more employers offering inclusive training schemes.

The so-called “disability gap” is the difference between the employment rate for people with disabilities and those without.

According to an analysis of Office for National Statistics figures by disability charity Scope, 48% of disabled people are in employment, compared with around 73% of the general population.

However, disability rights activist David Gillon has called for the Government to do more to normalise perceptions of disabled people at work, as opposed to treating it as “a problem that needs to be explained away to employers”.

“If you pander to the perception of disability as a problem, then it will remain a problem,” he claimed in his blog earlier this month.

Disability Confident was launched in 2013 by Prime Minister David Cameron, and has been supported by employers such as KPMG, Fujitsu and EDF Energy.

According to Tricia Riley, HR director of Disability Confident employer Transport for London, 40% of individuals who joined its Steps into Work programme for people with mental disabilities are now in paid employment.

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