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Volume 475: debated on Monday 12 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what targets his Department has set in relation to its employment of people with disabilities over the next five years. (199046)

We have not set targets in relation to the employment of people with disabilities, other than for the senior civil service. Our target for 31 March 2008 was 3 per cent. and we achieved 2.6 per cent.

However in an earlier response to the Baroness Byford on 23 October 2007, Official Report, House of Lords, columns WA98-99, we highlighted that our disabled employee representation had increased across the Defra network over the last year.

Our workforce information tells us that about 6 per cent. of our staff have declared that they are disabled. However, disability declaration is voluntary and we believe that the actual number of disabled people in the Defra workforce is in fact higher.

In developing our new disability equality scheme our disabled and deaf staff have told us that they lack confidence in the fairness of recruitment processes for disabled and deaf people. To address the concerns raised we intend to review our recruitment and selection policies and processes and improve the monitoring of the whole process to identify and eliminate barriers that disabled and deaf people may experience in securing work with Defra.

Our diversity team supports the business to ensure that the Defra workforce is representative of the wider community. We have set up a Disability Equality Scrutiny and Advisory Group made up of independent disabled experts to monitor and advise on our progress against our action plans.