Yesterday the Chancellor made comments which suggested that a higher number of disabled people in the workforce has had a part to play in the ‘sluggish productivity in Britain’s economy’.
To say we are disappointed in these comments would be a huge understatement. Even more so, as they come a week after the Government announced a new plan to support more disabled people to enter and stay in work.
We have been campaigning hard over the last four years to tackle the barriers disabled people face both in and out of work. And pushing hard to tackle outdated negative attitudes towards disabled people, whether in the workplace or in wider society. It’s vital that Government and employers recognise disabled people’s potential and the value they bring to the workplace.
Statistically and historically the correlation between increases in productivity and disability employment have gone hand-in-hand. It has never been the case that increasing the number of disabled people in work has had a harmful effect on productivity levels.
Our analysis of the ONS (Office of National Statistics) National Accounts and Labour Force Survey shows the rate of productivity in the UK has been unaffected by an increase of the proportion of disabled people in work. For instance, between 1998 and 2007 productivity increased by 22 percent, while the proportion of the workforce who are disabled increased from 7.6 percent to 10.4 percent.
It is therefore unacceptable that the Chancellor decided to attribute productivity challenges to disabled people so publicly in this way.
Just last week the Prime Minister committed to getting a million more disabled people into work, a move we welcome. And the Government’s own Industrial Strategy published last month, highlights that businesses with inclusive workplaces bring improved productivity.
Shifting attitudes doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years to shift perceptions. Yet it is this hard work that is essential for social change, and essential if we are to live in a country where disabled people can have everyday equality. However, it can take seconds to reinforce lazy, outdated and harmful stereotypes and undo all this hard work.
We have written to the Prime Minister to clarify her position and have called on the Chancellor to withdraw his comments.