This morning, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced new funding of £1 million to help employers with support and advice to enable more disabled work to move into work.
Disabled people make up 20% of the population in Scotland, but only 11% of the private sector workforce, and 11.7% of public sector employees. “We know that inequality is persistent in employment,” said Sturgeon, at the Congress on Disability, Employment and the Workplace this morning in Glasgow. She pointed out that while work is not a possibility for everyone, the employment gap reflects a lack of opportunity and support. Sturgeon stated that not being in sustainable employment meant that people are unable to fulfil full potential, and are without access to income, independence and self-esteem.
“If we don’t give everyone the ability to contribute, all of us lose out as a result,” said the First Minister.
The Scottish Government has committed itself to the ambitious target of halving the employment gap.
The way in which it aims to do so is by providing a single source for employers who are unconfident and unsure of how to proceed with recruiting disabled employees.
Damaging attitudes is holding everyone back, and disabled people’s talent and skills are under utilised. “Most of the barriers that disabled people face are the product of other people’s attitudes,” said the First Minister. “We tend to focus too much on what disabled people can’t do, rather than what disabled people can do.”
The government and public sector have to take the lead, said the First Minister. “We have a responsibility to lead by example.”
The government will be holding consultations across Scotland which will then inform a disability employment action plan.
“The target is hugely challenging,” said the First Minister. “It will require transformation of the way that our society thinks about disability.”