Alistair Kerr: Break down the barriers that stop disabled people entering the workplace

Alistair Kerr, Director of Partnerships at Shaw Trust Scotland.
Alistair Kerr, Director of Partnerships at Shaw Trust Scotland.
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In Scotland, we have a major gap and imbalance in our workforce. Nearly one in five people of working age in our country is disabled, but only half of those are in work, compared with 80 per cent of non-disabled people of working age. It is unfortunate that so much talent is going to waste.

Both the Scottish and UK governments have committed to working with employers to develop more inclusive workplaces. However, a lack of knowledge or confidence on how to handle any special requirements for individuals is often a barrier for employers.

In addition to the benefits to workplace culture, an inclusive workforce is shown to increase productivity, innovation, and ultimately profit, by engaging a wider range of perspectives, talent and abilities in the economy.

Employing those with disabilities and health conditions also benefits employers in other ways, from securing talent and reducing staff turnover to improving employee morale and commitment.

Support exists to help employers attract skilled disabled people into organisations, with practical assistance available to help make integration for both employees and employers both seamless and positive.

Disability Confident is an initiative which aims to highlight the support available for employers to attract, recruit and retain people with disabilities. Recently, Hibernian Football Club joined the scheme and is already promoting the benefits of doing so.

Work Choice is an employment programme which delivers this practical support in Scotland. It helps disabled people find work and stay in a job by providing expert help to the disabled person, as well as tailored support packages for the employer for getting the best results from any employment relationship.

As a service provider of Work Choice, we have supported 1500 disabled people in Scotland into work since 2010, but this is sadly just a drop in the ocean of what can – and should – be achieved.

Initiatives such as Disability Confident, and Scotland’s new Work First scheme will help, especially with influential employers such as Hibernian FC leading by example. Hopefully this will encourage more employers to embrace such opportunities. By doing so, they will reap the benefits of securing high quality staff who are skilled, loyal and hard working.

Alistair Kerr, director of Partnerships at Shaw Trust Scotland