Public procurement should be delivering opportunities for people with disabilities

Following the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ)’s report on employment for people with disabilities  (or perhaps more aptly ‘lack of employment for people with disabilities’) Rethinking Disability Work LGPN (Local Government Procurement Network) have published an article on the role of public procurement in delivering opportunities for people with disabilities.

The CSJ report identifies that there are a million disabled people in the UK who want to work, but are effectively ‘blocked’ from doing so. This is wrong Just 48 per cent of disabled working-age adults are employed, compared to 80 per cent of non-disabled adults. Shamefully, the gap is higher in the UK than in no fewer than 21 other European countries.

The report rightly states that this is one of the most striking injustices of our generation. It robs individuals of purpose and income, and our economy of employees and workers. It is immoral.

Rightly, the report calls for concerted action to tackle this inequality and injustice.

Over twenty-five years ago, I had lead responsibility at a national disabilities charity for promoting employment rights and for managing services that supported people with disabilities to be appointed to jobs, and for advising employers. Reading this report, it is incredible that so much more still, after all this time, remains to be done.

For a start, employers should act – and act from social responsibility, moral and business perspectives all at once.

Government can and should do more to encourage (and even require) companies and the public sector to employ more people with disabilities, just as it should promote the employment of people with mental health challenges. A civilised society should expect no less. An efficient economy requires no less.

The Government has to be ready to fund and support programmes. It has to ensure that the benefits system facilitates employment and enables people with disabilities to work, as well as to be supported with the additional costs of transport and care. And it has to do this in ways that are equitable and fair, and not by penalising people who are disabled or treating them somehow as unreasonably seeking financial assistance through benefits. And, of course, people who ‘cannot’ work because of the severity of their disability or illness should not be treated to the horrors, humiliation and gross indignities of the current assessment and benefits regime. There should be no pressure on people who cannot work to have to work or be continuously reassessed. This too is immoral.

Read the article in full on the LGPN website.