Valerie attends Disability Confident event

Disability Confident employers are those who have identified and removed barriers in the recruitment of disabled people, have tapped into the support available and successfully hired local disabled job seekers. I was delighted to hear Mark Sherratt’s inspiring story of how he overcame the barriers to employment with Light Cinema.

The Disability Confident scheme, launched by the Department of Work and Pensions, encourages businesses to adopt more inclusive working practices and recognise the value of employing disabled people. Disabled people represent 20% of the potential national workforce, many being first class honours degree students.

A recent survey of 2,000 disabled people found that more than a third (37%) of disabled people who do not feel confident about getting a job believe employers will not hire them because of their impairment or condition.

Any employers interested in the Disability Confident scheme should visit the GOV.UK website. I encourage all local businesses to make the most of the talents disabled people can bring to your workplace and sign up to this scheme.

The 3 December 2017 is Disability Day, and I urged the Government at Business Questions to ensure there is parity of esteem between physical conditions and mental health in PIP assessments, and to rectify the errors in payments of ESA. People with disabilities and their families are set to lose £5,500 a year by 2022 because of existing tax and benefit changes.

In my view education is key to having an effective workforce. For this to be achieved, the Government needs to invest in the educational infrastructure including Sure Start’s, libraries, teacher support and further education. The Budget on 22 November 2017 failed to do this – it did not mention the words “disability” or “people with disabilities” once, or address the illiteracy problem which costs the UK over £800 million a week.

It is a challenge – but I know that everyone will rise to that challenge.