Government must ‘lead by example’ in bid to cut disability employment gap

The Scottish Government must “lead by example” if the stigma around the recruitment of disabled people is to change, ministers have said.

Speaking at Holyrood on Thursday, equalities minister Christina McKelvie urged MSPs to go further in changing the culture, attitudes and practices in employing people with disabilities across Scotland.

An action plan was launched by the Scottish Government in December last year with the aim of at least halving the disability employment gap in the country by 2038.

“To be successful in implementing this plan, we believe that the Scottish Government must lead by example as both an employer and a policy maker,” said Ms McKelvie.

“In spring, the Scottish Government will publish a recruitment and retention plan, setting a target for employment of disabled people in core Scottish Government roles.

“We will recognise other public-sector organisations and encourage them to take part too and follow our example.

“We will work across government to ensure the policy we develop to support disabled people helps rather than hinders their ability to enter that meaningful work that they all so much want.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Jeremy Balfour said the challenge for the Scottish Government is to ensure that its proposals can be delivered.

Mr Balfour said: “Disabled people want decent incomes, fairer working lives. As one disabled lady said to me a few weeks ago, ‘I just want a normal job, not a job that was created because I’m a disabled person’.

“I think that is key because perhaps, historically, we have gone off and created jobs for disabled people and only allowed disabled people to apply for them.

“But, actually, that misses the point. Disabled people want to be mainstream – of universities, colleges, and daily life.

“We fully support accessible workplaces, homes and transport, and we want society to do everything that it can to ensure that people with disabilities have full and active participation in all aspects of public life free from stigma and discrimination”.

Labour MSP Mark Griffin said: “More needs to be done to support Scotland’s disabled people to live their lives to the fullest – unrestricted by governments, employers, businesses and, in fact, society itself.

“With one in five people in Scotland living with a disability, that’s more than a million people who are often left to the whims and attitudes of everyone else.”

Mr Griffin also referenced a survey which found that “some of our ancient castles can in fact be more accessible than the local pub”.

He added: “The consequence of being excluded from the local pub, the local community venue or a particular activity is that disabled people are prevented from living their fullest life.”

Scottish Green MSP Andy Wightman said the UK Government’s changes to disability benefits such as the transition from disability living allowance to personal independence payments had been “disastrous” and described the situation as “attacking the rights of disabled Scots to live in dignity”.