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Disability Confident Campaign

Volume 597: debated on Monday 22 June 2015

The Disability Confident campaign continues to play a crucial role in the Government’s aim of halving the disability gap. It has secured support from 360 employers and pledges from 98 organisations to positively change employment practices towards disabled staff. Many colleagues are hosting constituency events, including my hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams) who did so last week.

Norwich for Jobs, the youth employment campaign that I founded in Norwich, has hit its goal of helping to halve youth unemployment. We want to turn the power of that local network towards helping young people who are claiming employment and support allowance. Will the Minister join me in calling on Norwich companies to give a young disabled person a chance?

I am delighted to hear of the success my hon. Friend has achieved in her constituency with Norwich for Jobs. That is exactly the kind of local initiative that I welcome, and to which I am pleased to add my support. In addition, I hope that her local authority, local enterprise partnership and business community will do all they can to help to promote that fantastic scheme.

Will the Minister join me in thanking all the employers and speakers who contributed to my first Disability Confident conference in Selby a couple of weeks ago? It was an extremely worthwhile event to organise. Many of those employers will join me for my fifth jobs fair in October. I was particularly pleased because we had a bit of stardust at the event—Pamela Uddin, the star of the BBC’s “The Apprentice”, shared her experiences of coping with dyslexia.

I am aware of the very successful event my hon. Friend organised. I congratulate him on the quality of the speakers he secured—it certainly shows that he is no apprentice. We need employers to see that recruiting and retaining disabled people should be the norm, and that disabled people have a great deal to offer in the workplace. Events such as the Selby summit play a crucial part in our drive to get employers involved.

Does the Minister agree that an almost hidden element of disability is autism? It is a barrier to so many people gaining employment and a full and confident life.

I have met stakeholder groups, and that message has been made very clear to me. In fact, 42% of disabled people looking for work say that the biggest barrier they face is the attitude of their employer. Through such campaigns as Disability Confident, we hope to inspire more businesses to take on more people with disabilities. We rejoice in the fact that, over the past 12 months, an extra 238,000 disabled people were in work.

What support is the Minister offering to specialist and locally based employment organisations such as Northern Rights in my constituency and the East Durham Employability Trust? They have a proven track record of supporting disabled people and people with multiple barriers into work, but have frequently found it very difficult to access funding from the Department for Work and Pensions.

Again, having met with stakeholders, I can say that local initiatives are clearly key. Each of our individual constituencies has different challenges and opportunities. Part of the Disability Confident campaign is sharing best practice. I would be keen to hear more of the good work going on in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency.

As part of the Disability Confident campaign, will the Minister work with organisations such as United Response, which does excellent work in my constituency with people who have learning difficulties such as autism, which the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) mentioned, so that people with learning difficulties go into every kind of job and all public service? Some are councillors. I want more people with learning difficulties to put themselves forward to be councillors and Members of Parliament.

That is why we launched the Disability Confident campaign and why we will continue to drive it forward. I met Liz Sayce of Disability Rights UK. She made it very clear to me: she said that, too often, disabled people are seen as recipients when they want to be net contributors. Local initiatives, sharing best practice, busting the myths and ensuring that people see what a huge amount of talent is available will continue to help to drive up disability employment rates.