Although employment rates have risen steadily in London over the last 10 years, only half of working-age disabled people are in work, compared to nearly four out of five non-disabled people.
It is therefore crucially important – now more than ever in these uncertain times – to take decisive action to fully open up the narrow talent pool from which many businesses are recruiting.
I want to see London’s firms take bold and progressive steps to boost the diversity of the capital’s workforce and liberate the full range of skills and knowledge that exist within our city.
Research shows that diverse organisations are more successful. These businesses are often leaders in innovation and creativity. Ultimately, they provide the leadership that can achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth for everybody.
This means making real breakthroughs in equality of opportunity. It means ensuring that disabled people are given the same access to opportunities as the rest of society, so that they can bring their immense talents to the table.
Tracey Crouch, minister for sport and civil society, has just announced that £90m of an estimated £330m being reclaimed from dormant bank accounts over the next four years will go towards building a fairer society, including help disadvantaged young people into work.
This is a noble goal, and one that City Bridge Trust, the City Corporation’s charitable funder, has also been working hard towards, aiming to promote equality of opportunity and inclusive working practices in the capital. In October, we launched Bridge to Work, a new £3.3m scheme which will open up a wealth of new employment opportunities for young disabled Londoners.
This ground-breaking programme will narrow the employment gap for young disabled people by providing financial backing for organisations tackling the issue.
Over the next five years the programme will fund projects offering employability support for young disabled people, and strengthen links between employers and the disabled community. Working in partnership with leading disability charities, we will pay for work experience, personalised support for young disabled people looking for jobs, advice on employment rights, role coaching, and a new online training resource for job seekers.
Our message is clear. If you are an inclusive employer with inclusive recruitment practices, you will be able to draw from the widest possible talent pool. If you create an inclusive workplace, you will retain the best talent. Diversity of talent leads to diversity of ideas, and your business will benefit from it.
The importance of our mission can be summed up with one statistic: at age 26, disabled people are nearly four times more likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people.
We must all work together to consign this statistic to the history books. The UK economy cannot afford to overlook such a significant section of society, and one which offers a wealth of talent, experience and perspective that can help companies thrive.
I hope in years to come the employment of disabled people will be seen as it should be – in the context of the economy as a financial imperative, and not in the realms of charity and corporate social responsibility.