It appears that the Scottish government is ahead of its Westminster counterpart when it comes to providing opportunities for disabled people, by offering internships within government-run departments. The programme, which starts in September, is designed to help disabled people get into work by providing them with disabled-friendly environments and the support they need to make the transition back into the working world.
The government initiative is part of a programme that offers up to 120 internships in the public sector, voluntary and charity organisations, as well as political groups.
Halving the divide
Currently, disabled people in Scotland are finding it hard to either re-enter the world of work after becoming disabled, or have felt excluded because of their disability. In fact, non-disabled people are twice as likely to be in full or part-time work, with 81.5% of non-disabled people in jobs. The figure for disabled workers is half that, at just 40.9%. This state of affairs has long been an issue for the government, who have a long-term aim of at least halving the existing gap between disabled and non-disabled employment figures. By introducing more internships, they hope to provide more routes into work for those who have previously come up against barriers or who have felt unable to apply for jobs alongside their more able-bodied counterparts.
Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman said that the Scottish Government and the public sector in general had a duty to ‘lead by example’ in supporting and helping disabled applicants back into work.
Minister Freeman also highlighted a series of plans to put the spotlight on the huge potential offered by the disabled workforce in Scotland, including a campaign to raise awareness among SMEs of the benefits in hiring disabled people. She also announced a major conference on disability, employment, and the workplace, scheduled for December. By raising awareness, the Government hopes to start breaking down some of the barriers faced by disabled job-seekers who want to move into public sector positions or government.
The Government is also looking at whether a fund designed to help disabled applicants become elected to public office could be extended, so that disabled people who want to apply for other public offices have the chance to. Findings on this will be delivered in the autumn, and the government will consider whether to extend the funding in 2018 going forward.
The reason that Minister Freeman and others are spearheading this new initiative is down to the responses they have been getting from disabled people, who want to play a meaningful part in society, and are perfectly capable of doing so. However, a major part of that is being gainfully employed, and it is this that the Government and businesses have to address as a matter of urgency.
The measures are part of a wider plan that is designed to strengthen the rights of disabled people in Scotland, and has been widely welcomed by charities, organisations and campaigners who want to see that chasm between non-disabled and disabled workers reduced.