It’s been just over a year since the government’s Disability Confident scheme launched, encouraging employers to up their game and modify their policies to make their business more inclusive. So how’s it gone so far?
Looking for a job when you have a disability can be daunting. Statistically, disabled people are less likely to be in employment than non-disabled people, and with recent research from Leonard Cheshire Disability showing that one in five employers admit that they would be reluctant to hire a disabled person, it can feel as though the odds are against you.
Which is why the government launched the Disability Confident scheme. Disability Confident is designed to encourage employers to recruit and retain disabled people and people with long-term health conditions.
“We introduced Disability Confident to create a business-led scheme that puts employers firmly at the centre of a movement which aims to increase employment opportunities for disabled people,” explains Sarah Newton MP, Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work. “The scheme has three levels, and an employer will complete one level before moving on to the next.”
The levels are: Disability Confident Committed, where the employer will identify one thing that they can do that will make a difference for disabled people; Disability Confident Employer, where they must demonstrate that they are actively looking to attract and recruit disability people, and that they offer flexibility when assessing candidates; and Disability Confident Leader, where they put their self-assessment up for external challenge, and demonstrate leadership by encouraging and supporting other employers in their industry or community to become Disability Confident.
At present, more than half of workplaces are missing out on vital talent and skills as they are excluding disabled people in the recruitment process – and disabled people are two times more likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people. While disabled people have made huge progress in the world of work in the last couple of decades, it still isn’t good enough – they still have to apply for 60% more jobs than non-disabled people to get an interview, and there are one million disabled people who want to work and are able to, but are currently unemployed. Disability Confident hopes to change all of this by changing the thinking of recruiters.
The new scheme was launched in November 2016, and over 5,500 employers have signed up so far – and this number is growing week on week. Those signed up include The Clear Company, Ambitious about Autism, Guide Dogs, Channel 4, various NHS trusts, and all government departments – which have all achieved Leader status.
“The scheme aims to challenge attitudes towards disability and to remove barriers faced by disabled people and those with long-term health conditions,” says the Minister. “I’m determined to ensure that disabled people have the opportunity to fulfil their potential and realise their aspirations. The Government has set out an ambitious plan to see 1 million more disabled people in work over the next 10 years, and the Disability Confident scheme will help us to achieve that goal.
“Looking forward, there is also an exciting range of new initiatives which were announced in November when we published ‘Improving Lives: the Future of Work, Health and Disability’, such as employment research pilots and an enhanced training programme for Jobcentre work coaches to help them work with people with mental health issues. Creating the culture change that’s needed to break down barriers for disabled people is not something that employers, or Government, can achieve alone. That’s why we are working with the third sector, voluntary organisations, businesses, health professionals and employers to change the face of disability employment.”
The year since the November launch has been very successful, with more and more employers making it to Leader level. One of the main aims of the scheme is to showcase a commitment to inclusive practices – and reassure disabled jobseekers that employers are going the extra mile to make sure that their needs are met, and that they’ll do their bit to help you perform to the best of your ability.
It also works to challenge many misconceptions that employers continue to have around disability – that disabled people will be too expensive to employ, that they’ll be off a lot, that they’re more hassle than they’re worth. Instead, it encourages employers to recognise an entirely new pool of talent with skills and life experience that make them a great addition to any team.
“The scheme makes a difference to disabled people by sending a powerful message to potential employees that they will get the support they need to thrive in the workplace,” adds Sarah. “Disability Confident can help improve employee morale by demonstrating fair treatment of all employees. It also helps employers build a positive reputation within their networks and communities, so it’s a win-win situation for everyone.”
After a successful first year, the Department for Work and Pensions have big plans for the scheme. First of all, they’re keen to scale it up, and encourage more employers to sign up and work their way through the different levels. They’re also keen for public sector employers to lead the way, with targets for all local authorities, police, fire services and NHS trusts to get on board.
“We want to turn scheme sign-ups into real opportunities for disabled people,” adds Sarah. “And we are working with employers to ensure they offer more opportunities, such as apprenticeships and work experience.”
Disability Confident might not guarantee a job – but it is definitely changing the mind set of employers, and working towards a more diverse, inclusive labour market. So look out for the Disability Confident mark next time you’re job-hunting – it could be the gateway to a supportive, successful new role.
To find out more about Disability Confident, go to www.gov.uk/government/collections/disability-confident-campaign.