On 17th January the APPG for Disability held its first meeting of year. The meeting opened with a briefing from Tabitha Jay, Director of the Joint Health and Work Unit, on the Improving Lives “Command Paper”. Kim Hoque then provided an update on the ‘Ahead of the Arc’ report, and Anna Denham (Disability Rights UK) introduced Disability Rights UK’s “I Can Make a Pledge” event at the Financial Times office on 20th March.
Tabitha Jay began by acknowledging that low employment rates among disabled people are a great injustice and one of the great unsolved problems of the UK labour market, with costs to both the economy and to people’s health. She commented that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is committed to working openly and collaboratively with academics, the sector and people’s direct experiences, “recognising the expertise that lies outside government”. Providing an overview of Improving Lives which sets out the government’s approach to achieving the ambition of getting an extra one million disabled people into work, she pointed to joined up thinking between the welfare system, the health system and the workplace. Comments from the floor focused on where these links need to be strengthened including with businesses and with other government departments such as the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
Kim Hoque then updated the group on the progress made on the recommendations in the APPG’s “Ahead of the Arc” report, outlining the meetings the report’s authors have held with the Cabinet Office, the DWP Office for Disability Issues, the Joint Health and Work Unit, the BEIS Industrial Strategy team, HM Treasury, the Number 10 Policy Unit, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, Innovate UK and the British Business Bank. He also reported on the two roundtables that Disability Rights UK and Disability@Work co-hosted at the WBS Shard facilities: one with Business Networks organisations http://www.disabilityatwork.co.uk/2018/01/21/lisa-cameron-mp-chairs-round-table-on-business-networks-at-the-shard/; the other with Growth Sector Disability Champions http://www.disabilityatwork.co.uk/2018/01/22/lord-kevin-shinkwin-chairs-round-table-on-growth-sectors-at-the-shard/.
In outlining the impact of these meetings, Kim highlighted that the most significant success to-date has been the commitment to increase the proportion of disabled people in apprenticeships by 20 per cent that was written into the Industrial Strategy. It is unlikely that this commitment would have been made were it not for the meetings the “Ahead of the Arc” authors held with the BEIS Industrial Strategy Team. Kim also commented that he felt there is now much more awareness in the Industrial Strategy white paper of the positive contribution that disabled people can make to the economy. He also highlighted that Innovate UK and the Infrastructure and Projects Authority have agreed to work with the report’s authors on metrics to ascertain how many disabled people they support, and that the Government’s Construction Board has also committed to put disabled people on a par with individuals with other protected characteristics.
Anna Denham then introduced the “I Can Make a Pledge” event that the “I Can Make It” team at DR UK will be holding at the Financial Times office in London on 20th March. The aim is to encourage businesses and local authorities to “pledge” jobs for young disabled people and for policymakers to pledge more political support for the campaign alongside them. For more details, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call Anna on 07968 292141.