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50 BUSINESS LEADERS SIGN OPEN LETTER TO PRIME MINISTER AS CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED TO CLOSE DISABILITY EMPLOYMENT GAP

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More leading business CEOs, including Dame Emma Walmsley of @GSK, Dame Carolyn McCall of @ITV and Amanda Blanc of @AvivaUK, have signed an open letter to @BorisJohnson urging him to deliver on his promise of a truly transformative National Strategy for Disabled People. 

The letter – published in The Times today – coincides with the launch of a campaign to halve the disability employment gap following the publication of “Now Is The Time”, a new report by the CSJ Disability Commission, which includes five key recommendations aimed at improving the employment prospects of disabled people across the UK.  

One of the Disability Commission’s key recommendations is the introduction of mandatory workforce reporting as a vital first step in bringing greater transparency and a level playing field for measuring progress. 

Lord Shinkwin, Commission Chair, says, “We are delighted that so many high-profile business leaders have signed the open letter to the Prime Minister. Their support signals a clear appetite for change, so today we are launching a campaign to halve the disability employment gap. It is crucial that the PM now delivers on his promise to produce the most ambitious and transformative disability plan in a generation. The CSJ Disability Commission’s submission to his National Strategy for Disabled People is designed to help him do just that. I hope he takes our recommendations on board.”  

Business CEOs, including Dame Emma Walmsley of GSK, Dame Carolyn McCall of ITV and Amanda Blanc of Aviva, have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister urging him to deliver on his promise of a truly transformative National Strategy for Disabled People. The letter coincides with the launch of a campaign to halve the disability employment gap. 

The letter – organised by the Disability Commission – has been sent to Downing Street and is published today in The Times newspaper. In the letter, the signatories say, “disabled people have waited long enough; now is the time for action”. They urge the PM to consider the Disability Commission’s proposals and say, “we stand ready to play our part”.  

The CSJ Disability Commission is chaired by disabled Conservative member of the House of Lords, Kevin Shinkwin, and comprises both disabled and non-disabled members from the business, academic, disability and parliamentary worlds.  

Lord Shinkwin says, “The mounting pressure from business on the PM reflects the growing need to seize the once in a generation opportunity presented by his National Strategy for Disabled People. They know we’ve only got one shot at this. We’ve been so impressed by the clear appetite for change that we’ve decided now is the time to launch a campaign to halve the disability employment gap. It’s crucial we harness this exciting momentum.”  

According to the ONS, disabled people across the UK have been hit particularly hard by Coronavirus, including seeing a widening of the disability employment gap, and that is why concerted action by Government and business is crucial. Currently, just 52 per cent of disabled people are in employment compared with 81 per cent of non-disabled people. 

Alongside the letter, a ground-breaking new report called “Now Is The Time” has been published by the CSJ Disability Commission making five key recommendations to vastly improve the employment prospects of disabled people throughout the UK. 

The recommendations include:

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– Increasing supported routes into employment

– Introducing mandatory workforce reporting 

– Leveraging Government procurement

– Reforming the Government’s Disability Confident scheme 

– Reforming the Government’s Access to Work scheme 

The Commission’s report argues that a central feature of the Prime Minister’s National Strategy for Disabled People must be the inclusion of robust measures focused on improving disabled people’s employment prospects. It says that until employment disadvantage is addressed, disabled people will continue to face social exclusion, financial hardship, and reduced well-being. 

The Commission was set up with the backing of the DFN Foundation to feed into the Prime Minister’s National Strategy for Disabled People. The DFN Foundation, founded by David Forbes-Nixon, is committed to developing a new enabling vision that will seize the disability employment agenda and drive tangible and sustainable change.  

David Forbes-Nixon, Commission Deputy Chair, says, “Having a disabled son has opened up my eyes to the inequalities in education, employment and life chances for disabled people in the UK. I hope the Commission’s recommendations, particularly in employment, will be embraced by the Prime Minister in his National Strategy for Disabled People so we can draw on this extraordinary and untapped talent pool.” 

Importantly, the report extends beyond employment to cover four other areas of life for disabled people: transport, education, housing, and access to goods & services. It makes extensive policy recommendations which, if enacted, would enable disabled people to participate more fully in society and realise their potential.  

Tanni, Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE, gold medal-winning former Paralympian and a Commissioner, says, “Despite the very welcome improvements in legislation since the Disability Discrimination Act, the experience of the last 25 years shows that laws on their own aren’t enough. The political will to enforce them is crucial. Right now, disabled people feel that we’re going backwards. That’s why we really need the PM to keep his promise of a transformative strategy and drive change from the front.”

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