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“Now is the time”: Business leaders urge PM to tackle growing disability employment gap

Business leaders have backed a call for the Prime Minister to deliver on his promise of a truly transformative National Strategy for Disabled People.

In an open letter to Boris Johnson, business leaders including Post Office CEO, Nick Read, Schroders CEO, Peter Harrison, and Clifford Chance Global Managing Partner, Matthew Layton, have all urged him to deliver an ambitious and transformative disability plan that ensures all disabled people are able to realise their full potential.

The letter is supported by the CSJ Disability Commission, an independent body, which is about to publish “Now Is The Time”, a ground-breaking new report designed to feed into the Prime Minister’s National Strategy.

One of the CSJ Disability Commission’s five key recommendations is to reduce the disability employment gap by introducing mandatory workforce reporting, which it believes is a vital step in bringing greater transparency and a level playing field for measuring progress.
Lord Shinkwin, Commission Chair, says, “Disabled people have been waiting an awfully long time for this. We really hope the Prime Minister will listen and build our recommendations into his upcoming National Strategy for Disabled People. As the PM has said, his strategy is a once in a generation opportunity. It is vital that we seize it and chart a new course that is more than just warm words. Now is the time for action.”

Business leaders have today called on the Prime Minister to deliver on his promise of a truly transformative National Strategy for Disabled People.

In an open letter, over a dozen senior business leaders have urged Boris Johnson to keep his promise to make it the most ambitious disability plan in a generation and to consider the CSJ Disability Commission’s ground-breaking new report.

Agreeing with the PM that there should be no barriers to anyone realising their full potential, they have explicitly linked the success of the Strategy to his flagship levelling-up agenda, which promises to increase opportunity across the UK.

In the letter, the signatories say, “disabled people have waited long enough and now is the time for action”. They urge the PM to show in his strategy that he has given careful consideration to the Commission’s recommendations and say, in return, “we stand ready to play our part”.

Disabled people have been hit particularly hard by Coronavirus according to the ONS and concerted action by Government and business is crucial to reducing the disability employment gap, which has widened as a result of the pandemic. Currently, just 52 per cent of disabled people are in employment compared with 81 per cent of non-disabled people.

The CSJ Disability Commission makes five key recommendations to reduce the gap:

  • Increasing supported routes into employment
  • Introducing mandatory employment and pay gap reporting
  • Leveraging Government procurement
  • Reforming the Government’s Disability Confident scheme
  • Reforming the Government’s Access to Work scheme

The Commission’s report argues a central feature of the Government’s National Strategy for Disabled People must be the inclusion of robust measures focused on improving disabled people’s employment prospects. It argues that until employment disadvantage is addressed, disabled people will continue to face social exclusion, financial hardship, and reduced well-being.

The CSJ Disability Commission is chaired by disabled Conservative member of the House of Lords, Kevin Shinkwin and comprised of both disabled and non-disabled members from the business, disability and parliamentary world.

Lord Shinkwin says, “The Prime Minister’s strategy represents a once in a generation chance to chart a new way forward where disabled people’s potential to contribute, compete and, in some cases, excel and reach the top of their professions, on merit, can at last be realised. We have one shot at this – that’s why it’s so important his strategy gets it right. What makes this even more exciting is that big business is ready to get behind him”.

The Commission was set up with the backing of the DFN Foundation to feed into the Prime Minister’s National Strategy for Disabled People. The DFN Foundation, founded by David Forbes-Nixon, is committed to developing a new enabling vision that will seize the disability employment agenda and drive tangible and sustainable change.

David Forbes-Nixon, Commission Deputy Chair, says, “Having a disabled son has opened up my eyes to the inequalities in education, employment and life chances for disabled people in the UK. I hope the Commission’s recommendations, particularly in employment, will be embraced by the Prime Minister in his National Strategy for Disabled People so we can draw on this extraordinary and untapped talent pool.”

The Commission’s report is especially relevant now as data reveals that disabled people have suffered disproportionately during the pandemic – in physical health, mental health, and economically – compared to non-disabled people.

Importantly, the report extends beyond employment to cover four other areas of life for disabled people: transport, education, housing, and access to goods & services. It makes extensive policy recommendations which, if enacted, would substantially increase the ability of disabled people to participate more fully in society and realise their potential. Tanni, Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE, gold medal-winning former Paralympian and a Commissioner, says, “Despite the very welcome improvements in legislation since the Disability Discrimination Act, the experience of the last 25 years shows that laws on their own aren’t enough. The political will to enforce them is crucial. Right now, disabled people feel that we’re going backwards. That’s why we really need the PM to keep his promise of a transformative strategy and drive change from the front.” Research and analysis for the Report has been led by the influential think tank, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ). Andy Cook, Chief Executive of the CSJ, says, “If we are to truly level-up, we need to be much bolder in our approach towards disabled people. Disabled people face too many unnecessary barriers in society. There is an opportunity now to empower disabled people into full and active participation within all aspects of society. I encourage the government to look closely at this report’s findings.”

Evidence: (PDF)

Report: Disability employment gap – BDF’s repsonse to Work and Pensions Committee inquiry December 2020 (Word document)



Open letter to the PM


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