Increasing employment of disabled people in public sector: analysis of consultation responses

This consultation looked at increasing the employment rates of disabled people in the public sector.

Executive Summary

Scope of consultation

1. This document provides a full, detailed analysis of the consultation responses undertaken by Cambridge Policy Consultants (CPC). The responses include all those submitted on-line and by email over the duration of the consultation which ran from 30 April to 15 August 2018. In addition, six workshops were held across Scotland and were attended by a 218 third sector and public sector organisations and individuals.

2. The total number of Citizenspace responses was 110. Key characteristics of these respondents were:

  • Forty five percent of responses (49) were from the public sector of which just over half (27 were from Local Government and a further 14 were from other public bodies including a range of national (Scottish) and some national (UK) organisations, regeneration agencies, and non-ministerial public bodies.
  • Well over a quarter (29 percent) of respondents were from the Third Sector, with a predominance of disability-related organisations, where this is specified.
  • Just under one in five (19 percent) responses were from individuals. It is clear that some of these were individuals who work in a range of public bodies but who wanted to submit their own views. It was not clear how many of these individuals were themselves disabled.
  • Other organisations were under-represented at 7 percent of responses and comprised professional membership organisations, trade unions and Higher education institutions.

Question 1: Support to increase self-reporting of disabilities

3. Consultees were asked how public sector bodies could better support self-reporting (self-declaration) of disabilities for members of their workforce, to improve response rates and the quality of data collected. Responses broadly covered the following three areas:

a) Seventy percent of consultees identified one or more practical measures to directly increase response rates:

  • There was a strong sense that individuals need to know that there is a positive value and purpose in sharing the information and how the data will be used. This was identified by 42 percent of respondents.
  • Twenty nine percent of respondents felt that greater effort needed to be undertaken to ensure data security/anonymity to overcome a fear of discrimination and uncertainty over the use to which such data would be put.
  • Almost a quarter felt there was need for improved terminology and to move away from legalistic language.
  • A fifth of respondents wanted greater clarity on what constitutes a disability. Organisations reported that many people do not consider themselves as disabled despite meeting the Equality Act 2010 criteria[1].

b) Just under half of consultees suggested thatattitudes and culture within organisations first needed to change in order to make people more confident in declaring a disability with both public sector and third sector organisations highlighting this as an important factor. Training for both managers and staff were identified as key ways of changing attitudes and culture, supported by more sharing of good practice examples.

c) Just under one in ten consultees suggested case studies should be used more widely to show the benefits and positive impact of self-reporting a disability for both the individual and their colleagues.

Question 2: What should be the timescale for implementing these measures?

4. Three fifths of consultees provided a timescale for implementation. Of these respondents, 40 percent felt that measures should be implemented immediately (up to 1 year), and a further 12 percent suggesting within 2 years. Less than 10 percent felt that a timetable of 2 years or more for introduction would be appropriate. Those not providing a timetable frequently suggested a phased approach to introduction, with the phasing at the discretion of the individual organisation. Others suggested introducing timescale measures in line with the timescales they are familiar with for the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) reporting - one year to make improvements with the aim in year 2 of having the data ready to report.

Question 3: Support to implement measures

5. Consultees were asked to identify the types of support necessary to implement these measures and from where this might be accessed. Just under a third (30 percent) of respondents recommended the sharing of good practice so all organisations can learn and implement more effective measures more quickly. Twenty-seven percent highlighted the importance of providing clarity over the purpose of collecting the data and the benefits from self-disclosure. Eighteen percent mentioned improvements to in-work support for disabled employees to help overcome barriers. Fourteen percent highlighted the important of involving disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) in implementation. Eleven percent mentioned support and training to ensure that the data is secure. A further eleven percent suggested the provision of disability awareness training.

Question 4: Views on setting targets

6. Just under half of all consultees and 55 percent of those who provided a response to this question felt that setting targets would improve the disability employment rate in the public sector. Third sector organisations were significantly more likely than public sector organisations to think that targets would help with 77 percent in agreement compared to just 38 percent of public sector organisations.

7. Over a third of respondents to this question did not think that targets would help - many of these felt that targets would be ineffective and may introduce perverse incentives and/or wanted more detail on how targets would be applied (e.g. would they be applied uniformly across different occupations and/or management tiers etc).

Question 5: Ranking of target options

8. Consultees who responded positively to question 4 on the use of targets were asked to rank the target options. Amongst the 51 respondents who responded to question 5, the greatest number of first preferences were for option D (39 percent of first preferences provided) followed by option C (25 percent of first preferences). Options A and B were the first preference of just under a fifth of respondents, although their popularity varied considerably across groups:

  • Option D, for the Scottish Government to set a target for its own core Civil Service workforce, while working with other public bodies to encourage them to set their own voluntary targets, was particularly popular with public sector organisations and received most first preferences of individuals. It was the option with fewest first preferences from the third sector who generally considered it was too weak and did not cover sufficient public sector employment.
  • Option C, to require Scottish public sector bodies to set targets for their organisation considering their starting point in terms of the level of disabled people in their workforce, their size and differing core functions, was the most popular choice with the third sector and respondents appreciated the ability to take into consideration local factors. This was the only option given first preferences by ‘other’ organisations.
  • Option B, for the Scottish Government to set one overall incremental public sector employment target that would be reviewed and revised in fixed stages, received fewest first preferences from the Public sector respondents who were concerned that it did not consider differences across the public sector. However, it was the second highest among the Third sector. This option was broad-based and offered a form of incremental approach to update and improve its application.
  • Option A, for the Scottish Government to set one national public sector target (in a similar way to the setting of the overall ambition to more than halve the disability employment gap), with a timescale to meet this, scored the same number of first preference votes as option B and was the second favourite choice among Individuals. Comments highlighted the difficulty in setting one target for the public sector as a whole.

Question 6: Timescale for achieving targets

9. Most people who provided a timescale, felt it would take some time to achieve their preferred target. Combining those who suggested five or more years with those who felt it would be secured ‘in the long-term’, this group represented just under a third (30 percent) of those who responded. A number of respondents in this group pointed to the 2025 deadline in the “End the Gap” report[2] for reducing the disability employment gap.

Question 7: Reasons for not setting targets

10. Those who did not think that setting targets for the public sector would bring about a significant change provided further explanation for their view. Almost half considered that targets would not work because they had already been tried and had not been effective, more than a third highlighted the need to address attitudes and change culture first and improve the level of disclosure. Some felt that a wider campaign to raise awareness and reduce mental health stigma across public sector employers. There were also concerns that targets could result in perverse behaviours, for example appointments due to status rather than skills could risk undermining disabled people’s status at work.

Question 8a: Other measures to employ more disabled people

11. The consultation also sought respondents’ views on other actions which could increase the number of disabled people working in public bodies. Making the recruitment procedures more inclusive was suggested by two fifths of respondents. Just under a third suggested improving the job application process for people with learning disabilities, for example through Project SEARCH, and a further 28 percent suggested close working with supported employment providers. Just over a quarter suggested more funding for Local Authority Employability teams. A quarter felt that Disability Confident Employer status should be more widely used and publicised. Other measures related to encouraging greater awareness of hidden disabilities in the workplace; reviewing job advertising and where adverts are placed; introducing interview and/or recruitment targets e.g. guaranteed interview scheme; changing organisational culture and staff exchange with the third sector.

Question 8b: Other measures to retain more disabled people

12. Just over half of respondents highlighted the need to increase training around disabilities. Forty-eight percent suggested the need for more advice and support about reasonable adjustments. A quarter of respondents felt that the flexibility of working could be improved. Seventeen percent of respondents highlighted the need for improvements to benefits support for those with a disability and in work. Other suggestions comprised supporting redeployment when an existing role is no longer feasible (13 percent), reviewing sickness policies (11 percent), working with supported employment providers (9 percent) and reducing bullying and harassment (2 percent).

Question 9: Views on monitoring and reporting

13. Consultees were asked what monitoring and reporting actions will help support the increase in disability employment in the public sector. Just over a fifth of respondents felt that monitoring needed to link with existing requirements including the Public Sector Equality Duty. Seventeen percent highlighted the need to publish the results to ensure public accountability. A further seventeen percent felt the focus should be on monitoring actions to remove barriers rather than on targets. Eleven percent suggested the need to introduce consistent reporting to allow benchmarking. Ten percent suggested the need to introduce disability specific targets or other disaggregation, for example by gender or grade. Other suggestions comprised: sharing best practice (10 percent); to first focus on changing culture and attitudes in the workplace (9 percent); to focus on introducing targets (7 percent); to provide recognition of good work already taking place (4 percent) and to ensure targets are complied with e.g. through audit procedures (4 percent).

Potential options for action

14. A significant majority of consultees felt that more needed to be done to ensure disabled people feel comfortable in disclosing their impairment to employers. For a significant minority, this is an important pre-cursor to the introduction of any target for the employment of disabled people, so that targets can be based on more realistic evidence. Potential actions include:

  • Practical measures to increase response rates including: providing employees/potential employees with more information about the benefits of sharing this data; ensuring that measures are in place to provide data security and anonymity; at the national level providing greater clarity and consistency on what constitutes a disability; and linked to this providing guidance over appropriate terminology and language. The expectation is that such supporting measures would ensure better disclosure rates and allow for a more accurate measurement of the true level of employment of disabled people in the public sector. This would then allow for more representative targets to be set.
  • Support to help the public sector to address attitudes and change culture to disability employment. This included training for employees and managers to raise awareness of working with people who have disabilities in inclusive workplaces, and to encourage a supportive culture.
  • The provision of good practice examples and the sharing of good practice from across the public sector.

15. Respondents also highlighted a range of alternative (non-target based) options to increase the employment and retention of disabled people. These included:

  • Delivering a campaign, supported by the Disability Confident Scheme, to re-assure candidates that a fair and transparent recruitment process will be undertaken.
  • For the Scottish Government to support local government to deliver increased employability support to people with disabilities, for example through greater support for Local Authority Employability teams.
  • To improve the job application process for those with learning disabilities for example through more widespread use of Project SEARCH.
  • To improve the retention of disabled people in the workforce through the adoption of more flexible working practices; by ensuring that disabled people have the correct financial support to supplement incomes and through the provision of more advice and support about reasonable adjustments.

16. One option may be that Scottish Government adopts a staged approach including in the first instance introducing a range or measures to improve disclosure and reporting. Alongside this, the Scottish Government may want to consider setting targets for its own workforce, as well as exploring how this could be applied to the wider public sector in due course, using the learning gained from its own implementation and adaption to inform how targets could best be applied.



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