Tackling the disability employment gap

New measures to support job opportunities for disabled people

A package of measures to support disabled people in accessing employment opportunities in public service and the public sector have been announced.

Ahead of a Scottish Parliament debate on delivering fairer opportunities for disabled people, Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman set out a series of new actions the Scottish Government would take forward.

They include:

  • A new internship programme for disabled people in the Scottish Government from September as part of the 120 place programme in public and third sector and in politics;
  • In the first event of its kind to be hosted in Scotland, a major congress will take place in December on disability, employment and the workplace accompanied by a newly announced week-long programme of events which will explore employability issues in depth;
  • A new campaign to launch in June to raise awareness among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) of the benefits of hiring and retaining more disabled people;
  • A review, which will report back in the autumn, in to whether the Access to Elected Office Fund could be extended to support disabled people who wish to undertake public service other than standing for elected office. Currently the fund provides financial support to help disabled people overcome extra difficulties they may face in accessing elected office - such as transport costs - with 39 candidates supported in the recent local government elections and 15 elected as councillors.

Statistics show non-disabled people are twice as likely to be in work than disabled people - the Scottish disability employment rate stands at 40.9%, while the non-disabled employment rate is 81.5%.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman said:

"Time and again I hear from disabled people across the country about how they want to contribute and play their part in society. Part of this is having meaningful employment.

“While businesses have a vital role to play in this, it is also up to the Scottish Government and the public sector to lead by example. That is why I’m pleased to be able to announce this package of measures that will help open up opportunities for disabled people – giving them the necessary skills and tools to allow them to have an equal chance of competing in the labour market.

“These are part of a wider package of measures contained in our delivery plan to strengthen the rights of disabled people in this country.

“I will set out to Parliament the broad programme of activity that is underway to change the lives of disabled people. It is a key issue, which requires us to work collectively, if we are to create a fairer country for all Scottish people.”

Tressa Burke, Chief Executive, Glasgow Disability Alliance (GDA) said:

“26 years after the Disability Discrimination Act, disability and disadvantage are still intricately linked in Scotland today. 70% of GDA members live in the four most deprived areas of Scotland. Over half live within the top 20% most deprived areas in Scotland.

“Hundreds of GDA members have taken part in feeding into the Scottish Government’s Disability Delivery Plan, to contribute their lived experiences and expertise on what needs to change to make the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities a reality in Scotland.

“We welcome and support A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People, and the principles, commitments and most importantly the actions which promise progress towards dismantling the barriers that keep disabled people trapped in poverty and isolation. We look forward to working collaboratively to secure human rights for disabled people and to a fairer, more equal Scotland for all.”

Ian Tasker, Assistant Secretary, Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) said:

“The STUC very much welcome the approach being taken by the Scottish Government to tackle the disability employment gap, a commitment that is very much evident in A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People where roughly half of the actions are related to improving employability of disabled people in Scotland and providing real and sustainable employment with equal opportunity for all in line with the Fair Work Framework.

“Working with disabled workers to develop an agenda for a Disabled Employment Congress underlines the commitment given by the Government during consultation on the delivery plan that nothing would be done for disabled people without them being actively involved in developing public policy that affects them.

“This refreshing approach will see trade unions working with Government and the wider disabled community to deliver an event that recognises their ability and not disability,  providing a solid foundation for delivering fair work and equal employment opportunities for disabled people in the Scottish labour market.”


The Scottish Government is working with its partners towards a long term ambition of halving the disability employment gap.

A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People was published in December.


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