Monday 22 July 2019 3:50 am

We all have a part to play in bridging the UK’s disability employment gap

Your first job interview can be a daunting experience. For disabled people, that first time can be even more challenging.

Imagine having to take on a job interview where the preparatory material has been supplied in a format that you cannot read. Or imagine having that interview in the car park, because you can’t access the office in your wheelchair.

These are some real experiences of the young disabled people whom we’ve been speaking to.

Only half of disabled people of working age are in employment, compared with 81 per cent of the rest of the population – the much talked about “disability employment gap”. Urgent action is needed to transform these figures.

City Bridge Trust, the City Corporation’s charity funder, recognises that the barriers to employment faced by disabled people can be multiple and complex.

That’s why we developed Bridge to Work, a £3.3m charity funding pot designed to open a wealth of employment opportunities for young disabled Londoners. 

It provides grants for projects offering employability support for the capital’s young disabled people – and helps to strengthen links between employers and the disabled community. The programme has a focus on work experience and offers a range of other opportunities.

Bridge to Work helps charities provide vital personalised job search support, advice on employment rights, job coaching, and online help for job seekers. It also pays for research and policy work aimed at employers and education providers.

Looking at the results one year into the programme, we’ve gained a lot of insight from which both employers and job seekers can learn. 

All participants said that the project had improved their employment prospects in the future. Some said it boosted their skills, helping them to find and apply for jobs successfully.

Others said that the scheme gave more clarity about the kind of work they wanted, more appreciation of what it would involve, and more confidence that the career paths they are choosing are right for them.

We found that employers were interested in getting involved when they saw the strong business case and clear benefits to their firms. 

Indeed, recent research by McKinsey suggests that diverse companies are more likely to financially outperform less diverse companies. It’s the reason why so many blue-chip firms invest heavily in inclusive recruitment programmes. They want the best talent drawn from the widest possible talent pool.

Through Bridge To Work, we want to show commissioners, policymakers, and other funders how to better support more young disabled people into finding employment, and find the right jobs for them. But the issue is not restricted to London. 

There are over 11m disabled people in the UK. Nationally, only six per cent of people with a learning disability are in paid employment.

For some disabled people, the picture is even more profound. Research from the National Autistic Society indicates that only 16 per cent of autistic adults are in full-time paid work. 

Together, we need to take bold and ambitious action to improve these dire employment statistics.

Because for a society championing diversity and inclusion, they are certainly not good enough. We all have a role to play in bridging the gap.

Main image credit: Getty

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