This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, with this year’s theme being kindness. This is a very relevant theme at present and I am pleased that, across the country and right in Swindon we have seen such an amazing level of kindness as people step up to help those less fortunate as we navigate the challenges of Covid-19. Throughout the week, this campaign has encouraged us all to speak up about any difficulties we may experience with our mental health – it really does make a difference to those in need of support, that they reach and out be supported.
Whilst there are challenging times ahead, I am proud that as the Minister for Disabled People the latest disability employment figures rose by 400k since last year & up 1.4m since 2014. As Minister for Disabled, People, and Health I have met many people with disabilities who desperately want to enter the workforce. I am passionate about showing businesses the benefits of employing someone with a disability, and I am delighted businesses are increasingly confident to offer opportunities.
The working age disability employment rate has now reached 53.8%, up another 2 percentage points, with the disability employment gap closing again by 1.3 percentage points. At the DWP we remain absolutely committed to our target of 1m more disabled people in work by 2027, and will continue to do everything we can to support Disabled People & businesses through our Job Centres, Health & Work Providers and Access to Work & Disability Confident schemes.
It often only takes very small changes for businesses to unlock fantastic talent, a win-win for everyone. On all my visits as a Minister the most powerful message I am given is for people to be judged on ability and to be given a chance. This is especially true when I meet young disabled people, they offer so much and want the same chances as their friends. The economy post Covid-19 will need to adapt, but as a Government our support for disabled people will not be diminished.
Also this week, the Government provided an update on its test, track and trace programme – crucial as we seek to end the lockdown, and confirmed that it will recruit 24,000 trackers in preparation for rolling out testing and contact tracing across the country. By 1 June we will have 25,000 contact tracers, capable of tracking the contacts of 10,000 new cases a day. The Government had already launched a pilot of the NHS contact tracing app on the Isle of Wight, which will play a crucial role in our plan to test, track and trace on the mass scale we need across the country.
Finally, please remember to Stay Alert, whilst we all welcome the great weather we cannot let our guard down – we have come too far to throw it all away.