The new Conservative Government was elected on a manifesto commitment to halve the disability employment gap. Investigation into the disability employment gap shows Government will not meet manifesto targets until 2065. A new report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Disability highlights the Government will miss its manifesto target to halve the disability employment gap.
The report entitled ‘Ahead of the arc’ highlights the current disability employment gap of 32 per cent will reduce by just 2.6 percentage points by 2020 on current rates of progress, and that it will take until 2065 to reach the target of 16 percentage points. The report argues that the Government’s target is highly ambitious and will only be achieved with decisive and innovative action. It outlines several new interventions that will be required if the target is to be met.
The report focuses on three currently under-utilised or neglected policy areas:
1. Institutional discrimination
Disabled people have difficulty in accessing mainstream business networks and government agencies administering research and innovation grants (e.g. Innovate UK and the Business Bank). The Government is keen to explore self-employment and entrepreneurship as a route to narrowing the employment gap, but this is currently undermined by a lack of access to and support from the necessary networks and funding agencies. The report recommends that Innovate UK and the Business Bank should be required to monitor whether their services are being accessed by disabled people; develop plans to ensure that disabled people’s access to their services is proportionate, and actively promote their services to disabled people.
2. Public sector procurement
Public sector procurement was worth £242 billion in 2015. The report argues that the Government should leverage this by stipulating that public sector contracts will only be granted to firms that improve disabled people’s employment prospects by adopting an inclusive approach to the recruitment and retention of disabled people.
3. Data collection
The report highlights a lack of reliable data on the scale and distribution of disability employment gaps. It recommends that all organisations, and especially those funded by and contracting with the public sector, are required to collect and record the disability status of their employees, users and applicants, and that this information is used to develop plans and monitor progress towards hiring and retaining more disabled people, or providing better services to them. This disability measurement is largely not happening but is essential in developing plans and monitoring progress towards greater levels of inclusion for disabled people in the economy.
Dr Lisa Cameron MP and chair of the APPG on Disability said, “This report looks at factors that the DWP green paper on employment and disability largely overlooks – are there enough future vacancies and how can Government ensure that disabled people are able to either create jobs or take opportunities in major areas of the economy? It argues for a new relationship with disabled people in which Government spending also has a social dividend that helps them gain work; and Government funded bodies such as Innovate UK and the Business Bank target a proportion of their funding at supporting disabled people. That funding could be used to help disabled people become self-employed where appropriate, start businesses, invent products or services that overcome their barriers to the labour market or even create new markets that benefit everyone.”
Philip Connolly, policy manager of Disability Rights UK and one of the authors of the Inquiry said, “New and additional job opportunities in the economy will make back to work support more effective and in turn provide a real incentive for disabled people to move off benefits, where their health condition makes this appropriate. We urge the Government to act on the Inquiry’s findings and shift its focus from cutting disabled people’s benefits to improving their support to get and keep jobs.”
Professor Victoria Wass of Cardiff Business School says “Measuring the disability status of employees, applicants and users may appear to be an uninteresting and an unnecessary exercise but it is an essential pre-requisite to identifying disability gaps, to setting targets to reduce them and in holding organisations to account in meeting targets. If you don’t measure disability, you don’t find it and you don’t manage it.”
Professor Nick Bacon of Cass Business School said, “The disability employment gap represents the continuation of a collective failure. Both public and private organisations need to set targets with regard to helping increase and retain the number of disabled people in work. The Government must hold organisations to account in meeting these targets. Public sector procurement power should be used to improve disabled people’s job prospects. Disabled people need disproportionate access to new jobs and that means preferential treatment, the sort of positive action that equalities legislation makes possible.”
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Disability inquiry report ‘Ahead of the Arc’ was authored by Professors Victoria Wass and Melanie Jones, Cardiff Business School; Professor Nick Bacon, Cass Business School; Professor Kim Hoque, Warwick Business School and Philip Connolly, Disability Rights UK.