Disability Employment Gap: Opportunities


I have spent the past few days considering key questions the government faces about how to reduce the disability employment gap. These are in a Green Paper, Improving Lives.

I am re-reading my notes on my way to a round-table meeting at Parliament with Heidi Allen, MP on this topic. Here are some of my thoughts:

- fear is often behind poor communication and behaviour related to disability. If we are not yet disabled, the unknown is scary and we can easily react in a negative way to an issue with which we may find too hard to empathise (‘I don’t want to go there’). And if we are disabled and feel self-conscious about it at work and discouraged from speaking up about what we need, we let fear stop us.

- disabled people are the second largest minority after men. So why is disability mainly assigned to the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions)? And how does this link play out in the minds of people who are encouraged by areas of our media to view disabled people negatively and as benefit scroungers? Is there a better way to handle disability within central government?

- how much improvement might we see if we could embed a culture of listening at work? Having coached hundreds of deaf and disabled people, I am overwhelmed by the difference it makes when they develop confidence to speak up and when colleagues start to really listen.

- things would improve for everyone as a result of wider workplace participation. How many of you reading the paragraph above thought ‘Well I am not disabled, but I wish my employer would listen to me better?’ So much of what is needed to increase disabled employment levels is good practice for working with human beings. Making these cultural changes would mean an opportunity to create a happier, more productive and more people-friendly workforce.

This topic has got me thinking about opportunities. Result CIC works with a wide range of people who feel excluded for different reasons. Access to the right contact – a door held open – can make all the difference. One of our partners is RECLAIM Project which does game-changing work with young people in Greater Manchester – work always led by the young people themselves. One of their latest projects is Fairer Futures – critically examining how working class young people are denied opportunities to flourish in our current system. Read about the launch I attended.

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