Business Disability Forum responds to Government's publication of 'Improving Lives: The Future of Work, Health and Disability'

30 November 2017

London, UK: Business Disability Forum has welcomed the publication of 'Improving Lives: The Future of Work, Health & Disability', which coincides with the run up to the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December.

Diane Lightfoot, Chief Executive Officer, Business Disability Forum, responded as follows:

Last week’s budget statement left us concerned at the omission of any reference to the Government’s commitment to close the disability employment gap. We hope that the publication of 'Improving Lives: The Future of Work, Health & Disability' today is a clear message from the Government of its intentions to move forward with its agenda and to ensure that employers are given the support they need to ensure disabled people can enter the workforce and progress once there.

On the civil service cross sector programme

Business Disability Forum welcomes the opportunity to work with the Civil Service to develop a cross sector programme on disability inclusion. We believe that the Civil Service is in a unique position to lead by example in increasing the number of disabled people in employment, particularly given the size and breadth of its workforce.

At Business Disability Forum, we know that creating a truly inclusive workforce requires whole organisation change and indeed this is at the heart of our own Disability Standard.  Increasing understanding at every management level about how to support disabled employees, and building the confidence to have the conversations that ask people what they need, is key in creating a public sector workforce that values, retains and develops the skills of disabled people. We welcome the recognition of that point in the paper today, along with the important role that job carving can play in making work more accessible and in playing to people’s strengths. Business Disability Forum is already working closely with many civil service departments to support them in this journey and we look forward to building on that to create real and lasting change.

We also welcome the strong emphasis in the paper on mental health, which is consistently the top topic in enquiries to our advice service and the commitment to effecting the changes recommended in the Lord Stevenson Review. And, we are pleased to see the focus on expanding and rolling out successful work experience programmes targeted at young autistic people to help address the barriers to employment too often experienced by this candidate group; barriers which are reflect in the employment rate of autistic people at an estimated 15% as compared to 47% of all disabled people and 80% of the population as a whole.

On procurement

Procurement is an area where organisations consistently score least well in our Disability Standard, though there are some honourable exceptions of leading edge best practice. We welcome the paper’s recognition that the civil service – along with other public and private sector businesses – have significant buying power and that they can use this to influence supplier behaviour, for example by using the Social Value Act to reward positive practices.

On progression

We know that there is a significant gap between the career progression and development of disabled employees as compared to their non-disabled peers and that the gap increases with seniority. Indeed, this is a key area of focus for us under the banner of our theme “Going Places” which looks at the career aspirations of disabled people and their progression with the workplace and is the theme for our Edinburgh conference on 5 December. We therefore welcome the emphasis on progression at senior levels within the civil service workforce as a positive step forward that demonstrates a real commitment to getting it right.

On reporting and measurement

Reporting clearly plays a crucial role in any organisation in monitoring process; we manage what we measure. For this to be meaningful, it is vital that organisational culture creates an environment where employees feel confident that they can ask for the support they need and for this to be provided. To this end, we particularly welcome the plans for a Work, Health and Disability Summit to raise awareness and to drive work in the wider public sector.

'Improving Lives: The Future of Work, Health & Disability' must not be an end in itself. Rather, we hope that it will be the first in many positive steps by Government to send a clear message and galvanise all parts of our society to act, once and for all, to address the deep inequalities that too many people still experience in our society.

The Government's strategy can be read in full at:


Notes to Editors

  1. Business Disability Forum represents around 300 organisations and has more than twenty-five years’ experience of equipping people with the expertise to create disability-smart organisations. Business Disability Forum, its Partners and Members do this by improving the understanding of disability in business, removing barriers and making adjustments for individuals.
  2.  For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Samuel Buckley, Press Officer, by phone on 020 7403 3020 or by emailing