Cross sector action needed to ensure employment action plan success

Written by: Louise Coupland, Employability Development Officer, the ALLIANCE

Published: 14/12/2018

Louise looks over the key actions contained in a new Scottish Government plan to address the disability employment gap.

At the British Disability Forum’s Annual Conference this week, the Scottish Government launched A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People: Employment Action Plan (this link will take you away from our website).

This is something I have been eagerly awaiting, hoping that the work of our members over the last year and their consistent passion to shape policy for improved opportunities for disabled people would be recognised and reflected in the document.

The Scottish Government has set itself a hugely ambitious task of at least halving the disability employment gap by 2038. In 2016, the Learning and Work Institute estimated that on the current trajectory, halving this gap could take 200 years. A stark indication that action across all sectors is necessary to steer Scotland off this discriminatory beaten track.

The Scottish Government has set out a number of actions it will take, spanning the portfolio areas of Health, Transport, Education, Social Justice and Procurement.

These actions include:

  • funding of £6m to tackle child poverty by supporting more disabled parents towards and into work;
  • investment of up to £1m to establish a Public Social Partnership, involving government, disabled people’s organisations and employers, to develop, test, and implement solutions to the barriers that employers face in hiring and retaining disabled people;
  • the setting by the Scottish Government of a target for the employment of disabled people in its own workforce. This will be detailed in the Recruitment and Retention Plan which will be published during Spring 2019;
  • the creation of bespoke Scottish employability support, to be in place from January 2020, to meet the needs of disabled people for whom more mainstream employment support is not suitable. This follows the end of UK Government Specialist Employability Support contracts in December 2019, and subsequent devolution of funding to Scotland;
  • development of pathways that enable those seeking to enter or remain in work to access appropriate and timely mental health and employability support, alongside work with employers to support the development of mentally flourishing workplaces;
  • investment of up to £500,000 to provide support similar to Access to Work to disabled people undertaking work experience or work trials.

This timely action plan is the Scottish Government’s recognition that employers of all sizes and in all sectors have a key role to play in reducing the disability employment gap. Population changes, labour market, increased retirement age and increased methods of flexible working make this of interest to employers on a national scale.

In Scotland, one in five working age people are disabled. This action plan is a reflection of the view firmly expressed within the consultation process – that the focus must shift from a deficit model that suggests individual disabled people need to change, to addressing the barriers and discrimination that society creates.

In spring 2019, we will see the publication of the Scottish Government’s Recruitment and Retention Plan for Disabled People, setting out its own actions as an employer to support disabled people in the workplace. It will also continue to support the work undertaken by Social Security Scotland to improve the recruitment experience for disabled people, succeeding in making Scotland’s workforce the most talented and diverse.

This is an exciting time to work in employability and I welcome the opportunity to work alongside members in supporting Scottish Government in this long-awaited programme.

I would like to thank members and stakeholders for their support this year. I will be continuing to seek your expertise and learn from your experiences next year as we use this action plan as a steer in transforming the employment opportunities for all disabled people in Scotland.

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