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.

3. Summary of Consultation Responses

Who responded to the consultation?

3.1. Overall 110 responses were received to the online Citizenspace resource. This included eight responses which were either in draft or submitted by email. These were included in the dataset for coding by Scottish Government or the consultant team. Key characteristics of 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.

3.2. In addition, Scottish Government organised six consultation events across Scotland in June/July 2018 which were attended by a 218 third sector & public sector organisations and individuals. The events comprised:

  • Glasgow, attended by approximately 57 including third sector organisations, local authorities and disabled individuals;
  • Dundee, attended by approximately 51 comprising of third sector organisations, NHS and Local Authorities;
  • Inverness, attended by a mix of approximately 29 third sector organisations, NHS bodies and Local Authorities;
  • Aberdeen, attended by approximately 26 third sector, Local Authority and NHS organisations;
  • Edinburgh, attended by approximately 37 and including a mix of third sector organisations, Local Authorities and disabled individuals;
  • Dumfries, attended by a mix approximately of 18 third sector organisations, local authorities and disabled individuals.

Question 1: In your view, or the view of your organisation, how could public sector bodies better support self-reporting (self-declaration) of disabilities for members of their workforce, to improve response rates and the quality of data collected?

3.3. Seventy percent of respondents 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. Providing more information on how the data will be used was identified by 42 percent of respondents;
  • Twenty nine percent of respondents felt thatgreater effort needed to be undertaken to ensure data security/anonymity. A significant minority of respondents felt that many disabled people were put off from self-reporting due to 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 language that, in a number of cases, was linked to inconsistencies in reporting;
  • A fifth of respondents wantedgreater clarity on what constitutes a disability. Organisations reported that many people do not consider themselves as disabled despite meeting the Equality Act 2010 criteria[8].

3.4. Just under half of consultees suggested thatattitudes and culture within organisations first needs 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.

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

3.5. Just over half the respondents (52 percent) said that measures should be implemented within 2 years with most saying that this should happen immediately (up to 1 year).

3.6. Two fifths of respondents did not provide a specific timescale. Most these suggested a phased approach often at the discretion of the individual organisation or in line with existing (Public Sector Equality Duty) reporting procedures.

3.7. Sample sizes by type of organisation are relatively small and some care is required in considering the responses on timescale. However, key differences are:

  • Individuals and the third sector prefer more immediate implementation than public sector organisations;
  • Public sector was much more likely to say the timescale should be at the discretion of the public body or phased in.

Question 3: What support, if any, and from where, would public sector bodies need to implement measures, such as improving data collection?

3.8. Suggestions for the types of support necessary to aid the implementation of these measures included:

  • Promotion of toolkits and good practice so all organisations can learn and implement effective measures more quickly. This was often suggested to be produced in collaboration with disability organisations;
  • Improving awareness and the importance of providing clarity over the purpose of collecting the data and the benefits from self-disclosure;
  • Increased resources and guidance on how to collect robust data including standardisation and support and training to ensure that data is secure;
  • Improvements to in-work support for disabled employees to help overcome barriers;
  • The provision of disability awareness training.

Question 4: In your view, or the view of your organisation, would setting targets improve the disability employment rate in the public sector?

3.9. Just over half of online respondents (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.

3.10. Over a third of respondents to this question (34 percent) did not think that targets would help - many of these felt that targets could 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.

3.11. Responses analysed by organisation type produced quite different views:

  • Less than two-fifths (38 percent) of public sector organisations agreed with setting targets and would instead prefer to address cultural issues as the priority;
  • Over three quarters of third sector organisations (77 percent) felt that setting targets would help improve the disability employment rate. A significant minority of third sector organisations did however feel that the focus should be on achieving cultural change within the organisation rather than target setting.

Question 5: Ranking of target options

3.12. All those respondents who answered ‘Yes’ to Question 4 were invited to provide rankings according to their preference for each of the four Target Options A to D. Not all respondents followed the same scoring regime and so this impacts on the number of usable responses.

3.13. Across all respondents 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 given just under a fifth of first preference each, although their popularity varied considerably across groups. Key findings are:

  • 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. Respondents appreciated the ability of Option C to take into consideration factors such as population, employment rates, accessibility and functions of the organisations. 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.

3.14. Although consultees were not asked directly, a number did suggest alternatives or modified versions of the options above, these included:

  • Making the target not around numbers of disabled people in employment, but around the accessibility of the recruitment process for jobs and the quality of support disabled people receive in employment. A change in HR processes would enable a change in employment culture;
  • Setting targets around cultural change and removing the stigma of being disabled such as delivering training courses; working in partnership with disability groups; raising awareness of the fairness at work initiative and promoting equal opportunities policies. Organisations should provide evidence on how these have been delivered;
  • Targets should be set for both current staff and new entrants and should include specific targets for retention, promotion and transfer. They said that targets should also take account of pay grades and occupational segregation and that public sector target setting should include a requirement for public bodies to report on the action taken to meet targets, and what has been achieved.
  • the Scottish Government should also inform other Scottish employers not in the public sector about the benefits of targets and how to use them and should consider how target setting and reporting could be built into wider procurement and supply requirement.

Question 6: What is your view, or the view of your organisation, on how long it would take to achieve the target set out from your preferred option above?

3.15. Most respondents felt that their preferred target would be secured ‘in the long-term’ or five or more years, this group amounted to 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.

3.16. A smaller group of respondents (14 percent) felt that their target could be achieved in a relatively short space of time - under two years although a number of these pointed to the achievement of incremental targets without an overall timetable.

Question 7: If you or your organisation do not think setting targets would bring about a significant change to the disability employment rate in the public sector, please tell us why.

3.17. This question was posed only to those who did not think that setting targets for the public sector would bring about a significant change. A number of reasons were provided:

  • Just under half of respondents (48 percent) considered that targets would not work because they had already been tried and had not been effective;
  • Thirty-six percent highlighted the need to address attitudes and change culture first;
  • Just over a quarter (27 percent) suggested other methods would be better, including: a campaign to ensure that recruitment procedures are made fair and transparent for disabled people; improved employability support for disabled people; A campaign to reduce mental health stigma across public sector employers;
  • Echoing some of the above, twenty four percent felt that the level of self-reporting needed to increase before targets were introduced;
  • Eighteen percent highlighted how targets can result in perverse behaviours.

Question 8a: What other measures or options do you, or your organisation, think could be put in place to employ more disabled people in the public sector.

3.18. The consultation also sought respondents’ views on other actions and suggestions which could deliver on the ambition to increase the number of disabled people working in public bodies in Scotland;

  • Making the recruitment procedures more inclusive was suggested by 40 percent of respondents;
  • Just under a third of respondents pointed to specifically improving the job application process for those with learning disabilities. Others identified additional employability support for disabled people including Project SEARCH, supported employment providers and Local Authority Employability Teams;
  • A quarter of respondents felt that Disability Confident Employer status should be more widely used and publicised.

Question 8b: What other measures or options do you, or your organisation, think could be put in place to support disabled people to remain in employment in the public sector.

3.19. Respondents identified a number of potential measures that in their opinion would help disabled people remain in work:

  • Just over half of respondents highlighted the need to increase training around disabilities;
  • Forty eight percent suggested the need to 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.

Question 9: Do you, or your organisation, have any views on monitoring and reporting on the actions needed to increase disability employment rates in the public sector?

3.20. Respondents 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;
  • A minority highlighted the need to introduce consistent reporting to allow benchmarking especially to reflect disability specific targets or other disaggregation, for example by gender or grade.

Potential options for action

3.21. 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.

3.22. 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.

3.23. 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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