The Government’s Disability Confident scheme celebrated its first anniversary towards the end of last year. We look at the project’s first year and where it’s going next.
Disability Confident offers employers a simple first step to creating a more supportive workplace. More and more businesses are signing up to Disability Confident every week. The scheme helps them think differently about disability, and improve how they attract, recruit and retain disabled workers.
What this means to disabled people currently navigating the job market or indeed, who are already in employment, is that there is an ‘official’ set of guidelines that companies and organisations can follow in order to support disabled people to fulfill their potential in the workplace. Indeed, the top level (Level 3: Disability Confident Leader) of the scheme goes further, encouraging those accredited organisations to become real advocates for the changes required to achieve fairness for disabled people regarding employment.
Since its introduction, just over a year ago, the scheme has gone from strength-to strength and has seen more than 5,000 companies join. The popularity of the scheme might surprise you since it’s well
known that disabled people can struggle with employment matters. Disability Confident, however, has been a distinct success, as described by the then Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Penny Mordaunt, who said: “Disability Confident status sends a powerful message to potential employees that they will get the support they need to thrive in the workplace. One year on from the launch of the scheme, we’re already helping more than 5,000 companies to create a more inclusive workforce”, adding: “By demonstrating the benefits these employers have seen, simply by recognising disabled people for their skills and talents, we can help transform attitudes among businesses across the country.” In other words, it isn’t just disabled people that win, it’s the employers themselves. That, of course, is important since, ultimately, despite a desire to ‘do the right and ethical thing’, business is business and ‘money talks’ etc. The good news is that Disability Confident is sustainable because it works for everyone.
With figures suggesting that approximately one-fifth of the working population in the UK are disabled, any business would be wise to sign up to a system that helps to access this previously overlooked talent pool. Furthermore, it’s also worth saying that the ‘one fifth’ are also customers – and to understand customers properly in this competitive age it’s essential to reflect their needs and preferences within the workforce. The bottom-line is that businesses that haven’t signed up to Disability Confident are missing out, twice!
The figures achieved so far by Disability Confident are impressive, with 170 businesses in the retail sector signing up to the scheme. The voluntary, charity and social enterprise sector is leading the way with around 1,200 organisations joining.
Larger businesses have certainly been enthusiastic about joining, with 24 of the FTSE 100 companies having already become members, including familiar names like Sainsbury’s, Diageo, ITV and BT. More are sure to follow, since the others received letters from the Minister (Ms Mordaunt) who marked the anniversary by challenging them to take up the scheme and encouraging these influential businesses to set the standard on Disability Confident status.
The Minister’s challenge is significant since to reach a critical mass, where disability confidence becomes the norm, the scheme will need to encourage the hundreds of small businesses up and down the country that of course, form the bulk of employment statistics.
As part of a ministerial reshuffle in November, a new Minister for Disabled People, Sarah Newton, was appointed and was swift to add her enthusiastic voice, saying: “Disability Confident is a vital part of our plans to see one million more disabled people in work within the next 10 years.
Around one in six working age, people are disabled and employers must ensure they don’t miss out on this valuable talent pool. By signing up to the scheme, employers can send a powerful message to potential employees that they will get the support they need to thrive in the workplace.”
For now, disabled people should certainly target those companies that display the Disability Confident logo and apply with the knowledge that they will be given that fair chance – and the same opportunity to succeed as anyone else.
How Disability Confident works
There are three distinct levels to the scheme. Broadly speaking this will help employers renew an ongoing commitment over the years and develop leaders in industry that can start to influence the way others operate in the workplace, through challenging attitudes and increasing understanding of disability.
Since its introduction, just over a year ago, the scheme has gone from strength-to-strength and has seen more than 5,000 companies join.
Level 1: Disability Confident Committed Employer
Companies sign up to a commitment to identify at least one thing that they can do that will make a difference for disabled people.
Level 2: Disability Confident Employer
Businesses will need to ‘self-assess’ against a set of statements grouped into two themes:
• Getting the right people for your business.
• Keeping and developing your people.
Level 3: Disability Confident Leader
To become a ‘leader’ businesses will be required to have their self-assessment validated by an outside body as well as demonstrate what they have done as a Disability Confident leader.
More: Search Disability Confident on: https://www.gov.uk/