Building on the work of my predecessor, we have introduced a new Disability Confident scheme to identify the value that disabled people bring to businesses and to give employers the tools and techniques they need to recruit, retain and develop them. The new scheme went live in July, and it will be formally launched soon. I must thank my hon. Friend for being an early adopter.
I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, and I pay tribute to her predecessor. Earlier this year, I held my fifth annual jobs and apprenticeship fair at Mid Cheshire College in Weaver Vale. In July, I undertook my first Disability Confident fair, where I signed up 19 Cheshire businesses to become Disability Confident employers. Will my hon. Friend tell the House what steps the Government are taking to encourage more small and medium-sized enterprises to take up this very important role?
In addition to the Disability Confident scheme, we are trialling the small employer offer, which will provide some additional support to those who may have less capacity within their own organisation. We are also working closely with the Health and Safety Executive, with its reach to SMEs, to target our services better.
Recent analysis suggests that as well as an employment gap, there is a wage gap of about 13% between disabled workers and their non-disabled counterparts. What is the Minister going to do to raise employers’ awareness of this abuse?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that important point. We quite often talk about getting people into work, but we clearly also want them to have a career: we want them to develop, reach their full potential and pursue all their talents. The Green Paper, which we will publish shortly, will look at some of these issues, but the beefed-up Disability Confident scheme will also be very effective in doing that.
I agree with my right hon. Friend. We need to do more to ensure that the support we offer is understood by employers. Disability Confident will help with that. We also need to raise employers’ awareness of what they are missing: huge talent and huge insight in their workforce. We will shortly bring forward schemes which will do just that.
The Minister may be aware there is a massive pool of talent among people who suffer from neurolinguistic difficulties and challenges, and autism and dyslexia. What more can the Government do to show that, if we recognise their challenges, these young and old people make very good employees?
Absolutely; part of the solution is ensuring that our own staff are fully aware and able to encourage employers to take on these people. There are many other things we can do to highlight the positive contribution they have made. We are doing a huge amount of work with Hidden Impairment, including training our staff and our ongoing communication with employers.