4. Looking Forward: Next Steps
4.1 Next Steps
Whilst still in the early stages of the substantial work required to meet the commitment to at least halve the disability employment gap, we hope you will agree that good progress is already being made.
There is, however, no room for complacency and we are clear that we need to ensure the Scottish Government extends its influence and continues to enhance our work with wider partners, who we know share our vision for an inclusive Scotland and one in which disabled people thrive.
We will build on the initial momentum achieved in the first year of implementing A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People: Employment Action Plan, with some of the key activity planned for the forthcoming year outlined below:
Stakeholder Engagement: We are delighted to announce that, working with DWP, we will establish a Scottish Access to Work Stakeholder Forum, ensuring that, for the first time, disabled people in Scotland have a formal mechanism through which to help shape the programme's delivery. We anticipate that the Forum, which will include disabled people's organisations, will meet for the first time in summer 2020. Its purpose will be to represent the views of service users and offer advice to DWP on how Access to Work could be enhanced to improve customer experience. It will also consider ideas and suggestions to enhance policy development.
In addition, we are reviewing membership of the Strategic Labour Market Group, which helps to ensure the Scottish Government's Labour Market Strategy remains responsive, adaptable and delivers a fair, inclusive and successful labour market. The Group makes recommendations on how to drive progressive change in the labour market, and in reviewing its membership we will seek representation for disabled people's interests, to ensure appropriate experience and expertise is available to inform delivery of the strategy.
Review of Supported Employment: Supported employment is based on a model of "place and train" where participants learn on the job with support from work colleagues, backed up by the skills of a job coach who provides flexible support to both the individual and potential employer. Originally developed to support people with learning disabilities to access employment, the approach has since been extended to support other excluded groups. Building on initial scoping work undertaken in 2019, we will undertake a review of supported employment, as part of implementing the employment actions agreed in Keys to Life: Scotland's Learning Disability Strategy.
Individual Placement and Support (IPS): Is a form of supported employment that assists those with severe and enduring mental health conditions. A key principle of IPS is that employment specialists and clinical teams work together to support people to gain employment. We have committed to review the provision of IPS within Fair Start Scotland, considering wider delivery approaches in order to understand how best IPS can be delivered in partnership with key agencies. The findings of this will feed into the overall review of supported employment, with a view to making recommendations to support current and future delivery.
Parental Employment Support Fund (PESF): In the years 2019-22, £12 million from the Tackling Child Poverty Fund will be invested to implement new Parental Employability Support. Delivered through local authorities, this will help parents on low incomes, including disabled people, to secure fair work and an increase in their earnings. A further boost of £4 million is being invested to enhance the alignment of early learning and childcare provision with employability support.
Third sector partners and those with lived experience will help design the new and enhanced services, which will provide parents with tailored holistic employability support. 35% of funding will extend pre-employment support to parents not yet in work to address barriers and progress towards employment, with the remaining 65% focussing on supporting those parents on low incomes to tackle in-work poverty.
In recognition of the significant impact of child poverty on households with a disabled family member, we will draw on the lessons from the first phase of investment in 2020/21, and work with disabled people, their representative organisations, and local authorities to inform the development of additional targeted support for disabled parents through the Disabled Parents Employment Support Fund.
Public Social Partnership (PSP): As indicated, the PSP will move to its activation stage, which will see the partnership develop and implement its work programme to address gaps in employer knowledge and expertise in recruiting and retaining disabled people. The aims of the partnership include to:
- reduce prejudice towards employing disabled people by conveying the benefits of employing disabled people;
- improve the knowledge and understanding of employers of the barriers to employment faced by disabled people and solutions for addressing these;
- provide employers with the tools to better understand how to attract disabled people to apply to their organisations (e.g. through redesign of recruitment practices);
- enable employers to quickly get the information they need to support employees who are disabled or who have recently become disabled;
- share success and learning from good/poor practice (e.g. linking to evidence-based solutions and considering international research / comparators).
As lead partner, SUSE will provide support to ensure the partnership is able to have a meaningful impact on employer practice.
Employer-led campaign: We have committed to work with employers, disabled people and their representative organisations to develop a campaign from 2020/21 to promote the positive benefits for employing disabled people. It is our intention that this should focus on practical solutions and proactive engagement, not simply passive awareness raising. We will undertake initial scoping to ensure that any further investment adds value to the work already being driven through initiatives such as Workplace Equalities Fund, Fair Work First, and the Autism Innovation and Development Fund, which all include work to support employers. In addition, we will be informed by the priorities identified through the Public Social Partnership.
Young People and Transitions: We will focus greater attention on transitions in the coming year, and will work with colleagues across the Scottish Government, to push this agenda forward. This will include playing an active role in contributing to the new cross-policy working group.
Rights and Redress: Initial work has commenced to explore the information and advice available to disabled people about their legislative rights in relation to employment. It is apparent there is already a wealth of information available on employment rights, but we will engage with disabled people, including those yet to enter the labour market, to obtain a better understanding of how access to this information can be improved. In addition, we will continue to work with relevant bodies such as the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to explore opportunities to strengthen enforcement.
Developing Scottish Government staff knowledge and expertise: To build the expertise of our own staff in considering intersectionality in their approach, we will work with Scottish Government colleagues and key external stakeholders to deliver a capacity-building workshop for policy officers within Scottish Government's Fair Work, Employability & Skills Directorate.
Enhanced collaboration across SG: We know that employability is affected by, and impacts on a range of policy agendas (e.g. transport, health, education, access to childcare, etc.), and in order to achieve the level of change required to meet our ambition to at least halve the disability employment gap, it is imperative that we align our work more closely with that of other Scottish Government portfolios. This will assist in ensuring best use of resources in a tight fiscal environment, but also enables a more coherent message on national policy priorities to be presented to employers.
To this end, we will work closely with colleagues to join up work across the Fair Work, Gender Pay Gap and Race Equality action plans, where appropriate, whilst still giving cognisance to discreet issues that impact on disabled people. Similarly, there is a need to improve our collaboration with health colleagues, amongst others, particularly given the opportunities presented by the establishment of the new Public Health Scotland body from April 2020 – one of the strategic priorities of which is to support a Scotland where we achieve "a sustainable inclusive economy with equality of outcomes for all".
4.2 Closing Statement
Whilst A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People: Employment Action Plan focuses on the action that Scottish Government and its agencies will take, our work on this agenda will continue to evolve as we seek to collaborate with and influence wider partners to play their part in reducing the disability employment gap. As noted in the Minister's introduction to this report, achieving this ambition is likely to be even more challenging as we respond to the impact of COVID-19 going forward.
We remain committed to ensuring disabled people have the opportunity to help shape priority action, and will work with disabled people's organisations to ensure the voice of lived experience is heard. Building on the partnership agreement for employability between Scottish and Local Government, we will also ensure we help optimise the contribution of public sector partners – both as employers and service providers. Equally, we will further develop our work with employers to support them to recruit and retain disabled people within their workforce.
Now more than ever, it remains a core aim for Scottish Government to ensure that all disabled people are enabled to find fair and sustainable work, commensurate with their skills, qualifications and experience.