This press release was first published on the University of Birmingham’s website on 11 July 2017.
Currently only 47% of disabled adults are in employment compared to nearly 80% of non-disabled adults, with disabled people still not being paid fairly. Yet 77% of the public say they would think more highly of a company which made an effort to employ someone with a disability.
The situation has been revealed in a new report by Professor Francis Davis from the University of Birmingham and Liam Booth-Smith, Chief Executive of Localis. The report suggests that the employment gap could be closed by a sector deal – the government’s proposed route to target particular economic opportunities in addition to general investment – that includes the abolishment of national insurance contributions of disabled workers.
Francis Davis said: “The challenge is local as well as national and so we assess each of the manifestoes of the Metro Mayor Combined Authorities to see how much more they could do, or build on what they already propose to access entrepreneurship and employability of disabled people in their areas.”
According to the report, a sector deal for the disability economy (also known as ‘purple pound’ and currently valued at £220 billion), was merited for several reasons; on the grounds of equity as the disability gap was too high; a national need to unlock talent, and potential export strengths of assistive technologies abroad.
Recommendations were made including giving businesses more incentives to employ disabled workers through tax breaks; and a sector deal involving Metro Mayor’s doing their own ‘disability’ deals regionally; and through expanding the assistive technology industry with its immense export potential after Brexit. At present the assistive technology market is growing at 6% per annum with UK sales exceeding £1 billion, this is in contrast to the Chinese and US market which will soon exceed £150 billion.
Liam Booth-Smith, co-author, Localis, said: “The disability employment gap is closing, but it is not closing quickly enough. While the government has made important steps to encourage employers to hire those with a disability, the recently published industrial strategy green paper failing to mention disability or disabled workers shows much more needs to be done to put this issue at the heart of our economic policy. Our research calls on the government to create a ‘sector deal’ for disability as part of the emerging industrial strategy. It should offer measures to increase the participation of disabled people in the labour market and support the development of the industries and businesses growing up around the needs of disabled people.”
A set of recommendations were made by the research team:
• the government should do a ‘disability sector deal’ as part of the industrial strategy;
• Metro Mayors should do their own local ‘disability deals’ to mainstream the disabled contribution;
• assistive technology skills in this country should be given a mainstream unit to advance their cause, because they risk being buried in the national Office for Life Sciences whose agenda is dominated by large pharmaceutical companies.
The researchers said these recommendations should be underpinned by:
• A new approach to infrastructure and the use of government procurement to make disabled jobs, disabled entrepreneurship and SMEs employing disabled people a key feature of procurement allocations;
• National insurance remission for disabled staff on the NI that would have otherwise have been charged to employers;
• Enhanced tax reliefs for those investing in companies owned or run or serving disabled people;
• Working parties to unlock under sweated and underused assets such as the billions held in NHS charity investments and local authority pension funds to create a new generation of investment funders for SMEs and social enterprises responding to the ‘purple pound’;
• A new approach to leadership- government has done much to explore obstacles to BME communities and women leading in the FTSE and other industrial sectors. It has noted that conscious policies work best. And yet neither BEIS nor the Equalities and Human Rights Commission have done as much when it comes to targeting the development of disabled leaders beyond sport we recommend a working party and new actions to address this.