In the Scottish Parliament today MSPs debated how best to tackle the disability employment gap. The Scottish Government announced in May the start of their consultation Increasing the Employment of Disabled People in the Public Sector which invites the public sector to find avenues to support more disabled people into sustainable and fair work.
With one in five Scots suffering from a disability or long term limiting health condition, it is critical that Scotland solves the disability employment gap. This is particularly pronounced in Scotland where there are fewer disabled people in work now than when the SNP came to power. In 2008 318,300 disabled people in work. By 2017 this had fallen to 305,000.
In addition, the employment rate for disabled people in Scotland is lower than the rest of the UK, at 45.4% and 49.2% respectively.
Michelle Ballantyne, closing for the Scottish Conservatives, raised the issue of disabled young people and the barriers that they face. Mrs. Ballantyne highlighted a recent visit to the Royal Blind School as an example of the talent, diversity and creativity disabled young people can bring to their work and advocated businesses, charities and other enterprises to follow their example.
The South Scotland MSP also took the opportunity to praise schemes such as Deaf Awareness Week, which looks to raise awareness about British Sign Language, deaf employees in the workplace and the challenges deaf people encounter daily.
Michelle Ballantyne MSP commented:
“We know that the ability to participate plays a major role in improving mental health, building social skills and helping disabled people stay active and well.
“I therefore welcome Initiatives such as the recent Deaf Awareness Week, a fantastic multi-group campaign highlighting the challenges deaf people face.
“We must make sure we help the young too, particularly in this Year of Young People. Research highlighted by Disability Access Scotland identified that, although half of disabled young people were in further education nine months after leaving school, by the time they reach 26 they are four times more likely to be unemployed then their non-disabled peers.
“This is an unacceptable potential lifetime of unemployment.
“With the devolution of new welfare powers to this Parliament, including the ability to top up benefits, Scotland and Scotland alone is responsible for its track record on cutting the disabled employment gap.
“My recent visit to the Royal Blind School highlighted that many disabled people are highly skilled, intelligent and charismatic people who can bring a wealth of experience to businesses, charities and other enterprises.
“By not utilising their skills we are making a mistake, and a foolish one at that.”