This document outlines the action Scottish Government will take to meet its ambition to at least halve the disability employment gap in Scotland. Here we summarise: the nature of the challenge; some of the initial key actions that will be taken during 2019 – 2021; and how we will continue to develop a collective approach to achieving the ambition, including through an annual update of this plan.
Disability Employment Gap
The Disability Employment Gap refers to the difference in employment rates between disabled people and the rest of the working age population. As at 2016, our baseline year, the gap stood at 37.4 percentage points. This means to meet our ambition to at least halve the disability employment gap, we will need to reduce it to 18.7 percentage points.
Achieving this goal, and improving disabled people's experience of employment, is a long term challenge. The gap in Scotland is similar to that at a UK level and, based upon the current rate of change, it has been estimated it could take 200 years to halve the UK gap. Clearly progress has been too slow and it is time to be much more proactive. The Scottish Government will therefore commit to a step change in approach by setting targets for 2023 and 2030, and to halve the disability employment gap by 2038. Achieving this goal will require a concerted national effort. But anything less is no longer an option – for the dignity of disabled people trying to progress in work, for the life chances of young disabled people, and to meet the needs of Scotland's economy. This goal is one of the most important public policy challenges of our time, its success will have significant positive impacts on non-disabled as well as disabled people, and we must work together to meet our shared ambition.
35.8%: The employment rate of disabled people in Scotland currently stands at 45.4%, compared to 81.2% for non-disabled people, representing a gap of 35.8 percentage points.
Supporting employers to recruit and retain disabled people
A refreshed partnership with employers is critical to achieving a step change in employment outcomes for disabled people. We know that employers not only want to be able to recruit the right people, with the right skills, at the right time – they also want to retain and develop talent. Yet disabled people tell us that they continue to encounter examples of poor employment practice, and are not always offered appropriate support by employers, meaning that even when they are in employment, they often find it difficult to progress. We outline below some of the steps we will take to improve support for employers, and how we will lead by example to improve employment practice:
1. The Scottish Government will set a target for the employment of disabled people in its own workforce. We will detail this in the Recruitment and Retention Plan which we will publish during the spring 2019.
2. We will invest up to £1 million to establish a new Public Social Partnership, involving employers, government and disabled people's organisations, to develop, test, and implement solutions to the barriers that employers face in hiring and retaining disabled people. Alongside this, we will appoint a business leader to advise us on the steps we could take to reduce the perceived risk of recruiting people with fluctuating health conditions.
3. Working with employers and disabled people, we will develop a campaign in 2020/2021 to promote the positive business case for employing disabled people directly to employers, ensuring that they are fully aware of the talents and opportunities that disabled workers provide. Taken together with other actions in this plan, this campaign will form part of a refreshed and sustained partnership with business to demonstrate the benefits of employing disabled people and a more diverse workforce generally.
Supporting disabled people to enter employment
Fair work is good for the economy and for all of us as individuals: our health and wellbeing, economic independence, and social connections. However, disabled people are being denied the same access to employment as non-disabled people which, in addition to impacting negatively on a personal level, means as a society we are wasting considerable talent. Disabled people have told us they want to be able to access the right support, at the right time, to develop the skills to enter fair work. They want to feel valued and emphasise that support will need to be responsive and tailored to the individual's needs. Key actions we will take on this are set out below:
4. Specialist Employability Support contracts, currently operated by the UK Government's Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), will end in December 2019. We will create a bespoke
Scottish employability support service, to be in place from January 2020, to meet the needs of disabled people for whom more mainstream employment support is not suitable.
5. Invest up to £6m of additional resource from the Child Poverty Delivery Fund to co-produce with disabled parents and disabled people's organisations a pilot fund, targeted towards areas with the highest levels of child poverty and the lowest levels of employment of disabled people, to identify and address the barriers disabled parents face to entering and sustaining employment.
6. We will invest up to £500,000 of new funding to provide support similar to Access to Work to disabled people undertaking work experience or work trials. This will enable greater participation in this key element of employability development.
Young People and Transitions
The move from school to education, training or work is a critical time for all young people. While some reported positive experiences, feedback from a number of disabled people, their parents and carers and disabled people's organisations has shown that this is not consistently the case. They said that there is much more the Scottish Government can do to ensure that every disabled young person who is able to and wants to work, has
access to the right advice and support to enable them to move successfully from school towards fulfilling their potential. Key actions we will take on this, include:
7. Building on the Seven Principles of Good Transitions, and broader recommendations received from sector experts, disabled young people and their families and carers, we will work across government to improve transitions into education, learning and work for disabled young people.
8. Following the review of current support, we will develop and put in place a new flexible and responsive employability delivery model that will support people – including young disabled people – in ways that work for them.
9. We will launch a new Careers Strategy in 2019 to align career information, advice and guidance services in Scotland. This will reinforce our commitment to enabling all individuals, including young disabled people, to receive high quality support to fulfil their career potential.
Measuring impact and Next Steps
To achieve our ambition of halving the employment rate gap in the next 20 years, the employment rate of disabled people will need to increase by at least 1 percentage point every year. We will review progress annually and set the following interim goals:
- By 2023 we want to increase the employment rate of disabled people to 50%;
- By 2030, we aim to achieve an employment rate of disabled people of 60%.
In addition to the ambitious headline employment rate targets we have set, we will set out a range of indicators to assess progress within each of the three themes outlined in this plan, including the pay levels of disabled people and the type of occupations disabled people move into.
In order to monitor progress and ensure that the plan continues to evolve, we commit to the following:
- Establishing a Scottish Government Delivery Programme Board to oversee implementation of the plan;
- Establishing a Leadership Action Group (co-chaired by disabled people's organisations and employers) to extend the influence and drive the development of further action across the private, third, and public sectors;
- Undertaking further engagement with disabled people and wider stakeholders to continue to inform our approach;
- Launching a website by Spring 2019, which will host the most up to date information on the action being taken and progress made in achieving the ambition to at least halve the disability employment gap. It will also include links to good practice information on disability and employment.
It is important that the Scottish Government shows leadership on this issue, but we cannot reduce the gap on our own – all of society needs to play a part and to sustain activity over time if we are to successfully address the barriers that prevent disabled people from realising their full potential in employment.
This plan is the first step in meeting our ambition to at least halve the disability employment gap, and it will be followed with annual updates. We will continue to work with disabled people, their representative organisations, employability service providers, and employers across the public, private, and third sectors to ensure we all play a role in both shaping and taking action on this issue.