MP for North Swindon

Justin Tomlinson MP

Swindon Advertiser Column: We Are Breaking Down Barriers To Employment For Disabled People

 


On Wednesday, Channel 5 rightly celebrated the hugely positive progress which has seen 930,000 more disabled people in work over the last 5 years; taking the disability employment rate from 44.2% to 51.5%. This is the first time ever that more disabled people are in work than out of work. It’s important, because behind these statistics are real people who want to be seen for their skills and abilities.

This really matters. Whether it’s through events & meetings with fantastic groups locally, or when I am on a Ministerial visits (especially when talking to young disabled people) they make it clear they want the chance to work and to unlock their own potential. That’s why I’m keen to go further.

I’m delighted that we have already announced ambitious plans to see an additional 1 million more disabled people in work by 2027. This will take a big effort from businesses, charities, and Government, but it will significantly change lives – creating opportunities and unleashing a wealth of untapped potential.

1 in 6 people of working age will develop either a disability or a long-term health condition; and I want businesses, especially those struggling to fill skills gaps, to have the confidence to broaden their recruitment.

To make this happen, it’s vital we work closely with businesses so that they can see the enormous benefits, and remove the unacceptable barriers that still sadly exist.

I am determined to do both, and I am already actively working with disabled people, key charities and stakeholders (utilising their practical experience to shape our future provision); reforming the rules around apprenticeships and expanding some of the key partnerships we’ve built up.

To help business understand how they can benefit, we have the Disability Confident scheme. It helps identify businesses rightly looking to recruit, and shares best practice to create opportunities. There are many local Swindon businesses who have already signed up, including some who joined us at STEAM for my reverse jobs fair a couple of years ago, and this is making a real difference.

And to break down barriers we have the brilliant Access to Work scheme, which helped just short of 34,000 people last year. This scheme sees the Government either contributing towards, or completely covering the costs of, adaptations or technology to allow someone with a disability or long-term health condition to secure work or maintain employment. I’ve seen how this has had a hugely positive effect on visits to businesses right here in Swindon.

This is a win-win for the business and the potential employee. As the Minister, and someone who has benefitted from employing disabled people, I will continue to do all I can to champion this vital work.

Finally, I’m delighted that we’ve seen another set of records broken as we tackle climate change.

The UK went a record 193 continuous hours (or just over 8 days) without burning coal to produce electricity. I know it might not seem like a big deal, but it really is.

This is the longest continuous period since to Industrial Revolution where none of the energy we consume has been generated by burning coal. There’s more to do, but this is an historic achievement.

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