Disability Works

This week the BBC is hosting Disability Works – a week of coverage across TV, radio and online media exploring the experiences of disabled people in the workforce and as consumers.

Purple applauds the approach, and if they can get it right, it will provide a significant opportunity to change the conversation around disability. For disabled people, it will provide a catalyst to see the art of the possible and why having and retaining employment aspirations is so important. By disabled people I mean those individuals looking to enter the labour market and/or re-entering the labour market after acquiring an impairment etc.

For businesses, it should open up the world of the Purple Pound, the consumer spending power of disabled people and their families which equate to £249 billion a year. The aim is to highlight innovative practice of businesses accessing the consumer market and attracting and retaining disabled people as part of their workforce. In a good but funny way, it should show businesses how straightforward the disability agenda can be, but equally being impactful.

For Government, this type of initiative supports their aim of halving the employment gap for disabled people, and will promote the message that disability can work in all sectors and at all levels – and without the need for the Government to intervene. The Government announcement before Christmas about appointing Ambassadors as disability sector leaders and this should complement well the frothy environment which currently exists.

And for Purple if the approach is right it will exemplify our entire raison d’etre – seeing disability and disabled people as a value, and the key driver, in addressing the stubborn inequality that still exists in our society. Over the past few months we have been working tirelessly with business and disabled people to put in place actions and approaches which will have an impact in changing the disability conversation. I am hoping we will be able to make some key announcements around what Purple is doing in the coming weeks.

But back to the point about getting the approach right, or conversely not getting sucked back in to the old ways of working that don’t work. Last week the consultation on the Disability, Health and Work Green Paper ended and we wait with interest the outcome. Will it lead to a different approach to the issues – with innovative forward thinking ideas lead by disabled people and businesses – or a tinkering around the margins where the status quo largely remains. This will and should be seen as a test of Government around their future approach to value disability and disabled people rather than the V word being vulnerable.

The DWP committee report, and subsequent media coverage, of their work into halving the employment gap (for which I gave evidence) has been dominated by arguments over the levels of ESA and cuts. While incredibly important, we are in danger of allowing the bigger picture to be blurred and quite frankly put people off coming in to the arena with the ideas and motivation to transform the landscape and make a permanent change.

As I write this blog, I note the latest figures show an increase in employment for disabled people up by 292,000 reducing the employment gap to 30.2%. The conversation has started!

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