Deaf councillor calls on city to lead way in helping disabled back to work

Cllr Ashley Graczyk quit the Conservative group at City Chambers last week in order to fight for disability rights.
Cllr Ashley Graczyk quit the Conservative group at City Chambers last week in order to fight for disability rights.
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A deaf councillor has called for action for more disabled people to be employed by the city council after it was revealed only a fraction of the authority’s workforce class themselves as having a disability.

Cllr Ashley Graczyk quit the Conservative group at City Chambers last week in order to fight for disability rights.

The Gorgie and Sighthill ward councillor is now sitting as an independent member of the council in protest that the Tories’ disability policies at Westminster are “incompatible with her beliefs and conscience”.

The councillor wants something to be done to reduce the disability employment gap at City Chambers.

Only two per cent of the council’s 18,667 employees describe themselves as disabled – 541 members of the authority’s workforce. In senior roles at the council, only 0.4 per cent of employees class themselves as disabled.

Cllr Graczyk said: “It makes perfect sense that a disability should not stop an individual from living a fulfilling life. But right now, the systems of welfare, social care and employability are letting people down.

“It is concerning that in 2018, the council has only two per cent disabled employees.”

She added: “The council as an employer must do more to find progressive ‘employerability’ avenues to support disabled people to succeed and progress in the workplace – such as creating a more inclusive recruitment process to address the imbalance in the workplace and exploring how to support and retain disabled employees in the workplace by ensuring accurate advice and support is in place.

“The council must also improve council staff’s understanding of workplace discrimination, prejudice and the barriers faced by disabled people. It is also vitally important to develop a better communication strategy to improve measurements of declaration rates to enable better analysis of relevant future data.”

Cllr Graczyk has demanded that council officers put together a report on how the authority can close the disability employment gap and “maximise inclusive promotion opportunities”.

Cllr Derek Howie, the council’s equalities champion, also welcomed the move, describing it as “vitally important”.

He said: “Employment is central to all of us, whether we have a disability or not. We have the same aspirations for employment and the same degree of ambition.

“There is work to be done and this motion by Cllr Graczyk will help us along that way.”

Across the UK, around 48 per cent of disabled people are in employment, compared with 80 per cent of non-disabled workers.

Dr Sally Witcher, CEO of Inclusion Scotland, said: “The reasons disabled people are out of work may have nothing at all to do with lack of skills or education, a lack of ability to [self] manage a health condition, or a lack of confidence.”