Untapped talent, untapped potential: Welsh Government challenging attitudes towards the disabled in work

(Title Image: BBC Wales)

The Welsh Government are going to focus efforts on changing attitudes of employers in order to improve employment rates amongst disabled people.

Economy & Transport Minister, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South) said that while the proportion of Welsh disabled people in work has increased over the last year from 45.2% to 48.6%, it still lags far behind the general employment rate.

Measures introduced by the Welsh Government include improving access to professional advice and support and the introduction of inclusive apprenticeships, but the heart of the government’s strategy going forward is changing attitudes.

“I can confirm that disabled people’s employer champions, who will work with employers across Wales to make workplaces more inclusive and better support the recruitment and retention of disabled people, will be recruited in the new year. We are also reviewing our marketing material and employer resources to dispel myths, influence and change employer attitudes, and raise awareness of wider support available to businesses when employing disabled people.”
– Economy & Transport Minister, Ken Skates

Some barriers people face are “illegal”

Shadow Communities Minister, Mark Isherwood AM (Con, North Wales) said some of the barriers disabled people face when seeking employment were “illegal”; public bodies have equalities duties and many people he’s worked with have never been told about them.

Also, while awareness of autism was increasing, the proportion of people with autism in employment wasn’t increasing, meaning many employers miss out of hiring perfectly qualified autistic and disabled people because “they don’t make adjustments in their recruitment process”.

Dr Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West) was concerned that the draft code for people with additional learning needs has seen a “significantly reduced” duty to provide appropriate careers advice to special needs students. The Minister said Careers Wales has 30 specialist staff working with special needs students.

“I’m old enough to remember when we used to have the green-card system. Companies were expected to employ a certain proportion of people with green cards and the percentage was reported. This disappeared, unfortunately, with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, and I think that’s done far more harm than it’s done good, because then, you could hold employers to account. At the moment, it’s very difficult to hold employers to account.”
– Mike Hedges AM (Lab, Swansea East)

David Rowlands AM (BXP, South Wales East) raised the matter of disabled people not only getting work, but getting to work – transport is often one of the biggest barriers preventing disabled people finding and maintaining employment. The Minister pointed to investment in new trains which will be more disabled-friendly.

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