Edinburgh disabled MSP says struggle goes on 25 years after landmark anti-discrimination law

Jeremy Balfour says more needs to be done to help disabled people into workJeremy Balfour says more needs to be done to help disabled people into work
Jeremy Balfour says more needs to be done to help disabled people into work
Twenty-five years after landmark legislation to outlaw disabled discrimination, more still needs to be done to help disabled people into work, claims Scotland's only physically disabled MSP Jeremy Balfour.

The Disability Discrimination Act came into force in November 1995, making it illegal for employers and service providers to discriminate against people based on their disabilities.

Mr Balfour, a Lothian Conservative MSP, who is also convener of the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party group on disability, said the legislation was a monumental victory for people with disabilities but there was still a struggle ahead to make the idea of a disability-inclusive society a reality.

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He said while there had been “significant improvements” to disability employment rates over the past 25 years, there remained a clear employment gap.

In Scotland the employment rates for disabled people were lower than the UK average, with only 46.9 per cent of disabled people being employed last year, compared with 53.2 per cent across the rest of the UK.

Mr Balfour said: “The Act was introduced within the UK Parliament by the Minister for Disabled People at the time, William Hague, on the back of a series of protests that sought to bring an end to the public narrative that disabled people were incapable of employment.

“The passing of the Act created a definite shift in the way that people with disabilities were treated, particularly within the work place. However, it would be a mistake to view that piece of legislation as the end of all struggles for disabled people.

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“In Scotland in particular, there remains a large employment gap, more so than in England, and the Scottish Government and employers need to ensure that more is being done to get people with disabilities into work.

“We need to draw the same level of awareness of the need to create more inclusion and equality of opportunity within the work place for people with disabilities, as is currently being drawn to other protected characteristics.”

Research published by YouGov this week found 59 per cent of adults with a disability report encountering at least one problem when looking for work, the figure rising to 69 per cent among those with learning, social, or memory disabilities.

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