Publication - Progress report

Fairer Scotland for disabled people: progress report

Published: 22 Mar 2021

This report for A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People sets out the progress made on the 93 actions in the original report.

Fairer Scotland for disabled people: progress report
Ambition 2: Decent incomes and fairer working lives

Ambition 2: Decent incomes and fairer working lives

The Scottish Government wants to ensure that everyone who wishes to is able to access fair and sustainable employment. However, this is not currently the reality for all. There has been a persistent employment gap between disabled people and the non-disabled working population, leaving many disabled people facing substantial barriers to entering and remaining in the labour market. To help address this, we published A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People - Employment Action Plan in December 2018, and committed to reducing the disability employment gap by at least half by 2038. The Employment Action Plan outlines further actions, beyond those originally set out in the Action Plan. The gap between the employment rate of disabled and non-disabled people in 2019 was 32.6 percentage points (ONS Jan-Dec 2019), having reduced by 4.8 percentage points since our baseline year (2016). 

In March 2021 the Scottish Government published the second progress report. Key progress includes:

a) Continued development of mental health guidance and support to better equip employers to offer appropriate support to employees;

b) Establishing the Scottish Access to Work Stakeholder Forum;

c) Scottish Government's Children and Families Directorate partnering with ARC Scotland to trial the Principles into Practice programme; 

d) Delivery of the Scottish Government's workplace adjustments pilot, as part of the implementation of its Recruitment and Retention Plan for Disabled People, to improve the co-ordination of adjustments during on-boarding – the period between new employees being offered a contract and starting work; 

e) A Public Social Partnership (PSP) has been established, led by the Scottish Union of Supported Employment to address the barriers that employers face in hiring and retaining disabled people;

  • Since August 2020 the PSP, which consists of third and public sector organisations, has been gathering evidence on current employer practice, and developing pilot projects that will be delivered over the next year, each designed to ensure that employers have the skills to attract, recruit and retain disabled employees.     

f) Continuing our investment and commitment to improve equality in the workplace, £850,000 was allocated to the Workplace Equality Fund this year. This year, the fund has enabled third sector organisations to work with private employers and public sector employers to address long standing barriers that particular groups face in entering and progressing in the labour market. 

g) After engagement with DPOs and disabled parents to help inform delivery, we are investing a further £5 million of Tackling Child Poverty funding into the Parental Employment Support Fund (PESF) to support disabled parents. This funding boost focusses on supporting unemployed disabled parents to move closer to and into employment, helping to tackle both child poverty and the disability employment gap. This new investment brings the total committed for our Parental Employability Support Fund to over £14 million by the end of 2020-21.

Fair Start Scotland (FSS) started in April 2018 with an initial 3 year referral period. In July 2020, we extended the delivery of FSS services with the current contractors up to 31 March 2023. Scotland's Devolved Employment Statistical Summaries are published quarterly and the most recent performance data published covers up to December 2020 and demonstrates that:

a) Over 29,000 people to date have started on the service, including 12,929 disabled people.

b) Over 9000 participants have moved into employment, including 3584 disabled people.

c) 72% of people starting work went on to sustain employment for three months, 79% of those who sustained employment for three months went on to reach at least six months, and 77% of those who sustained employment for six months went on to reach at least 12 months

The findings from the FSS Evaluation Report published in November 2020 also demonstrate that the service has matured over its second year of delivery; that local relationships have been well established and enhanced, that participants value the support provided and that over 9 in 10 participants felt they were treated with dignity and respect.

Of those who joined FSS during the last two and three quarter years, just under half (44%) of people receiving FSS reported being disabled. Recent statistics[1] show that compared to all FSS participants, a lower proportion of disabled people, people who are limited "a lot" by a long term health condition and older people (aged 50 years +) went on to start work after joining FSS. To address this, we are focusing our continuous improvement activity over the coming year on working with service providers to extend their reach to and delivery for disabled people, minority ethnic communities and other groups as directed by our evaluation feedback and performance data.

We continue to work with FSS service providers to flex the delivery model ensuring that participants receive support that is tailored to their needs, with further improvements to the service being informed by the external reviews of Individual Placement Support (to be published during 2021) and Supported Employment Review (likely to be undertaken in 2021).

We continued to invest in our employability services throughout 2020-21 and in 2021-22, the FSS budget will increase to £27 million – approximately £5.8 million more than the previous year in order to ensure that FSS is appropriately funded to deliver for those who most need support.

We recognise that COVID-19 is already having a huge public health and economic impact in Scotland, and that the longer term employment opportunities of disabled people in particular are likely to be impacted. Whilst some of the planned work may need to be reprioritised in light of COVID-19, the Scottish Government remains committed to addressing inequalities in the labour market during the pandemic including taking action to try to minimise the negative impact on disabled people. Key to recovery efforts is the Young Person's Guarantee which, within two years, aims to ensure every young person aged between 16 and 24 will have the opportunity to study; take up an apprenticeship, job or work experience, or participate in formal volunteering. 

The enhanced contribution rates providing disabled people or those with experience of care with the highest level of Modern Apprenticeship (MA) funding for their chosen Frameworks up to the age of 29 was launched in April 2017. Enhanced funding for MAs continues to be offered up to the age of 29 for disabled and care experienced young people. This recognises that these young people often enter the labour market later than their peers. In 2019/20, 1,547 individuals were supported by this funding. In 2019/20, following consultation with Skills Development Scotland (SDS) contracted training providers worked with Scottish Government, to simplify the eligibility criteria and process for claiming Enhanced Funding for 2020/21. 

We are continuing to support Health Boards to increase the number of people with learning disabilities employed by them. This includes reviewing annually the number of Health Boards that are participating in the Project SEARCH employment programme, and supporting the Government's Neurodevelopmental Support Team with next steps on Project SEARCH proposals. We will annually review the contents of the Learning Disability Toolkit to ensure that the links are up to date, and review periodically with our Equality and Diversity Leads to ensure it is fit for purpose.

Since 2016, the Scottish Government has run an internship for disabled people to work in the NHS. Between 2016 and 2018 40 disabled graduates were employed by the NHS. 97% of participants went on to a positive outcome or work or higher education and 55% progressed into the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland. For the "We Can Work" programme, to date, where information has been returned, there is a 68% success rate for interns going from "under or unemployed" into permanent paid employment in fitting with their career aspirations. A further 20% chose to pursue further education, with only 12% remaining unemployed.

The Scottish Government established Social Security Scotland in 2018 to deliver benefits, including disability benefits. The co-produced Social Security Charter states that the Agency will treat people with dignity, fairness and respect – principles that underpin the development of Scotland's social security programme. 

Continued engagement with stakeholders and clients through User Research and Stakeholder Reference working groups such as the Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group, as well as our Experience Panels at each stage of the development of our services, has shaped the programme, particularly in terms of accessibility and in taking a person-centred approach.

The new Child Disability Payment will start to be rolled out in summer 2021 and fully delivered in autumn 2021. The Adult Disability Payment will follow to be delivered by summer 2022. They are replacing existing benefits so the key difference for disabled people will be improvements in the process.

We are co-designing the end to end process from application to award, with people with experience of the current system. This includes replacing assessments with client consultations. Assessments are usually face to face whereas consultations will take place in a range of ways, including over the phone. Assessments can include functional examinations. Consultations will only involve a discussion with a practitioner. Consultations will be based on dignity, fairness and respect, and only cover any additional information needed to make an entitlement decision. We have committed to protecting disability assistance by ensuring that it will not be means tested.

We introduced the brand new Child Winter Heating Assistance benefit in 2020. This automatic benefit is provided to the families of 14,000 severely disabled children and young people on the highest rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance. This provided £200 to each eligible child or young person, to help reduce the financial pressures faced by families caused by winter heating costs throughout the day and at night. We are the only part of the UK to do this, and Social Security Scotland has made payments with a total value of £2.7 million.

We have a duty to encourage benefit take up and we work hard to ensure everyone is encouraged to get the financial support they are entitled to. We will ensure this is the case for recipients of our disability benefits.

The Social Security Scotland agency provides information in a range of accessible formats to help people understand the system to guarantee that disabled people are not disadvantaged by communication barriers. The agency is developing an inclusive communication strategy, underpinned in law, to ensure people can engage with the organisation in a manner that best suits them. An Inclusive Communication Reference Group has been created and includes over 20 representatives from organisations across a wide range of client groups. This group provides expert advice to ensure that inclusive communication principles are embedded across the organisation. 

From 1st April 2017 to 31 March 2021 inclusive, the Scottish Government has provided the Family Fund with over £12.5 million to deliver grants to families on low incomes raising disabled or seriously ill children and young people for items they might otherwise not afford, including IT and white goods. The total number of grants provided to families from 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2021 is predicted to be over 26,000. 

Since the launch in September 2018, over 400,000 Carer's Allowance Supplement payments have been made totalling over £108 million to 105,795 carers. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact on both carers and carer services, around 80,000 eligible carers received an extra one-off special payment of £230.10. Through Carer's Allowance Supplement and this special payment, carers in Scotland will receive £690.30 more than carers south of the border in 2020/21. This is an extra investment of £19.2 million, bringing our total investment to almost £350 million in 2020/21.

The Young Carer Grant is now a payment of £305.10, a figure which is up-rated annually. Between the launch in October 2019 and 31 July 2020 almost £500,000 has been invested into supporting young carers in Scotland. In response to pandemic, the rules about the timing of applications have been relaxed so that if a young carer applies after their 19th birthday, their application can be treated as though it were on time, if they were delayed in applying due to the pandemic. These changes are in force from April 2020 to March 2021 and may be extended.