Ministers have vowed to support businesses to become more confident at recruiting people with disabilities amid new research showing that employers’ attitudes were a barrier to work. A two-year advertising campaign was unveiled at a disability employment conference in London, attended yesterday by hundreds of employers as well as Government ministers.
Prime Minister David Cameron said he hoped to “dispel myths” about the difficulty of employing disabled people, and persuade employers that a diverse workforce is “a source of strength, not weakness”. The Government will this autumn set out a disability employment strategy, and Mr Cameron told the conference that broadcasters the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, BSkyB and the Creative Diversity Network have made a Paralympic Legacy Pledge.
Mr Cameron said: “I think that’s a fantastic commitment, not just because it’s right to employ more disabled people in television, but also because it offers a chance to take a giant leap forward in making sure that disability is mainstream and not kept in some sort of box.
“We should not underestimate the importance that role models play. It is so vital for disabled people to see people like themselves getting to the top of every profession, and it is hopeless if you can’t see disabled people in front of, as well as behind, the cameras in the media.”
The Minister for Disabled People, Esther McVey, added: “Last year’s Paralympics truly captivated the hearts of the nation and have undoubtedly helped shift attitudes and perceptions towards disabled people.”
There are 6.9 million disabled people of working age in Britain, and their employment rates have increased from 42.2 per cent in 2002 to 46.3 per cent in 2012.
Disability charity Scope’s chief executive Richard Hawkes said: “The Paralympics were a breakthrough moment. Disabled people had never been so visible.
“Disability had never been talked about so openly, but you don’t change society in a fortnight. Rhetoric and awareness need to be backed up with action to shape the jobs market so that it works better for disabled people.”