5. Looking Forward: Next steps
5.1 Next Steps
Despite the last 12 months proving extremely challenging, positive steps forward have still been achieved. Nonetheless, we recognise there is still a long way to go to achieve the ambition of at least halving the disability employment gap, and impacts from COVID-19 will be long felt, so we know we cannot let our focus drift.
We will continue to build on the momentum achieved in the first two years of implementing A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People: Employment Action Plan. We will also – together with partners, including disabled people – start preparing for a refresh of the Action Plan, ensuring that the impacts of the pandemic and the current labour market situation are taken into consideration.
Some of the key actions we will focus on during 2021 include:
Rights and redress: At a time of labour market uncertainty, it is more important than ever to ensure that disabled people are aware of their employment rights and know how to seek redress should the need arise. We will undertake a scoping exercise to identify whether there are any significant gaps in existing information and guidance available to disabled people, considering also intersectionality with other protected characteristics (e.g. gender, race and age). The project will consider the ease of access to existing support services, and make recommendations to address any gaps identified. The views of disabled people themselves will be sought, as will those of organisations with expertise in this area, including: STUC; Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS); and Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
Health and work: Employment and health outcomes are closely linked – it is recognised that someone in fair work tends to have much better health outcomes than someone out of work, or in poor employment. Whilst attention was understandably focused on dealing with the unfolding public health crisis presented by the pandemic in 2020, we remain committed to strengthening our collaboration with health policy and clinical colleagues. We have initiated discussions to identify shared objectives and associated action on which we can collaborate in relation to mental health and health improvement and, as outlined in the main body of this report, will revisit the recommendations of the review of the Scottish Government's Health and Work Strategy. In addition, we will consider the findings of the final evaluation report from the Health and Work Support pilot, due later this year.
Child Poverty: Through the investment of the additional £5 million in the Parental Employment Support Fund, we will work with local government to enhance the focus on support for disabled parents to enter and sustain employment. Critically, the funding allows the flexibility to respond to local needs and shape provision accordingly.
Fair Work: We will continue to work closely with officials and Ministers to join up work under the vision of Fair Work, with a particular focus on the vision for more inclusive and diverse workforces - including through collaboration on shared issues of concern with colleagues leading on the Gender Pay Gap and Race Equality and Employment.
Supported Employment: We will complete the review of Supported Employment, which was initiated just prior to the publication of this report. The review will enable us to build on critical success factors whilst identifying areas for improvement to ensure the continuation of this vital element of support for individuals as they move through their employment journey into, and within, work.
Perspective of Disabled People's Organisations
As recognised in A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People: Employment Action Plan, employment is an element of disabled people's human rights. It is important for our individual and community resilience, welfare, health, and wealth.
We were all members of the expert advisory group on development of the Action Plan. We continue to engage with the Scottish Government in our collective work to reduce the disability employment gap in Scotland, and have facilitated opportunities for disabled people with lived experience to engage directly with officials progressing implementation of the Action Plan (e.g. on support for disabled parents through the Parental Employment Support Fund).
Disabled people we spoke to identified actions they wish to see taken to address the impact of the pandemic and the subsequent economic recession on this ambition. These include:
- Scottish Government should work with key partners to secure commitment to implement recruitment and retention plans for disabled people;
- Scottish employability programmes must meet an individual's needs and expectations. One way of achieving this would be a clear statement of the right to appropriate support, including meeting access and communication support needs and a right to redress if these are not provided;
- Disabled people and their organisations are directly involved in producing and implementing a refreshed employment action plan to reduce the disability employment gap that addresses the challenges of a post-COVID labour market.
COVID-19 is having a greater impact on younger people and there is real concern that young disabled people will face even more barriers when accessing employability services and securing employment. DPO members in their 50s and 60s are also concerned about these issues.
We have been working to shift attitudes and assumptions around employment discrimination, including exploring issues of intersectionality and the experience of, for example, disabled minority ethnic people and young disabled people.
As 2020 has clearly shown, disabled people's lived experience must have a pivotal role in shaping and delivering policy and support if the right changes are to be made in the right way.
- Glasgow Centre for Inclusive Living, Glasgow Disability Alliance, and Inclusion Scotland
5.2 Closing Statement
This has been a challenging year for all of Scotland's communities. When we originally published our action plan in 2018, we knew that it had to be agile and responsive, and – crucially – that it was only the first step of a long-term approach to reduce the disability employment gap by at least half.
We cannot with confidence state what the medium and long-term impacts of the pandemic will be on Scotland's disabled community. However, we do know that COVID-19 has worsened already existing inequalities not only among disabled people, but those in households on low income or in poverty, children and young people, older people, minority ethnic groups and women. Indeed, overlap between these groups means that the impacts are likely to be magnified for some people.
Over the next year the Scottish Government, working with our partners in all sectors including those that are run by and for disabled people, will continue to bring remaining actions included within our original 2018 publication to completion. In addition, we will respond to the further impacts of the coronavirus as they reveal themselves, and will initiate work to refresh the Action Plan. We aim to do this in a way that acknowledges and takes account of the complex intersections between the barriers that disabled people and other marginalised groups face, and takes account of the views of those with lived experience.
We have worked closely with several organisations (e.g. Glasgow Disability Alliance, Scottish Commission for People with Learning Disabilities, and Enable) to identify 24 participants for the panel. These members come from a wide range of backgrounds including disabled people, young carers, care-experienced people, those with experience of homelessness, single parents, and refugees. This is an important aspect of the lived experience panel as it ensures a representative perspective of those citizens of Scotland who are furthest from the labour market.
In line with our commitment to treating service users with dignity and respect, members are remunerated in line with the living wage for their time, as we continue to draw on their expertise to support development activity.
We have been working with the panel on a monthly basis via online facilities to produce a Customer Charter for No One Left Behind, with a focus on supporting panel members through this process. Every aspect of the charter will be informed directly by users, with the main component being a collection of commitments that clearly convey what users can expect of services, and what they can do if they feel these commitments are not being met.