Skills and Employment Opportunities for Disabled Londoners

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 2nd August 2022.

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Photo of Krupesh Hirani Krupesh Hirani Labour

How are your skills funds and Academy and Careers Hubs engaging with Londoners with physical and learning disabilities to help access job opportunities and training programmes?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Supporting disabled Londoners to access training and employment opportunities is a key pillar of my Skills Roadmap for London. I remain committed to working with boroughs and other partners to support more disabled Londoners to find work and to progress in work.

Since 2019, when this was devolved to us, I have implemented several changes to the adult education budget (AEB) to make training more accessible for disabled Londoners. These include fully funding some British Sign Language courses and supporting providers to upskill their staff to better meet the needs of learners with special educational needs and disabilities. During the 2020 and 2021 academic year, almost 24,300 learners with a self-declared learning difficulty, disability or health problem participated in our adult education programme.

Disabled Londoners are also a priority group for my community outreach programme. Small grants are being made available to grassroots organisations to help generate referrals into learning opportunities and promote job opportunities. Through our careers hubs, we are working with special schools and with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) students in mainstream schools and colleges, linking employers to school career programmes, to help more young Londoners to identify suitable career pathways. We also run a pilot project working with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to support the recruitment of disabled young people once they leave further education (FE) colleges. Through my academies programme, I am helping disabled Londoners to access good work opportunities in London’s priority sectors - creative, digital, green, health, hospitality and social care - by building closer partnerships between training providers and employers, building pathways into employment and addressing under-representation in the workplace. Our Skills for Londoners Capital Fund has already prioritised projects that support learners with SEND and this will be a key feature of my new capital programme launching later this year.

Londoners with physical and learning disabilities will benefit from improved access into and around buildings, technological improvements and better facilities for SEND provision. Going forward, disabled Londoners are a priority group for the No Wrong Door Programme, which helps coordinate skills, careers and job-related support so that there is no wrong door for Londoners seeking employment assistance. User journey mapping and research is being undertaken to understand how to meet the needs of disabled Londoners, helping them to get the support they need to access good work.

Photo of Krupesh Hirani Krupesh Hirani Labour

Thank you, Mr Mayor. Just to acknowledge, I have constituents from Brent Mencap in the audience and watching online as well. An apology first because you could have been forgiven for thinking you were at the Conservative Party leadership debate with some of the blue bickering that we had, but I can assure you that you are at MQT.

I understand that as part of the London Recovery Programme’s Good Work For All strand that there is a subgroup looking at issues in relation to structural inequalities, including the issue of disabled Londoners who are suffering in relation to the lack of employment opportunities. Can you highlight the importance of this and also outline the other work that you are doing to support disabled people as part of your recovery plan?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Thank you for your question and thank you for raising this issue, which does not normally get raised at MQT. I am really grateful for you raising it. Also, it is really important with Brent Mencap watching and their families and friends and others who have an interest in this for us to be discussing the really important issue.

I am concerned about the waiting list for the Government’s national Access to Work scheme. It has more than doubled over the last eight months, which, if you think about it, means too many disabled people left waiting for decisions on the vital support the programme provides to remove barriers. What we are doing is, with the work of the London Recovery Board, with the work Jules Pipe [CBE, Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills] is leading in relation to adult education, trying to do all we can, in the absence in support in that scheme being as good as we had hoped, to narrow the disability employment gap that exists in London.

I mentioned in answer to your question the No Wrong Door principle. To give the Government credit, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is working really closely with us in relation to the scheme we have implemented. I visited an integration hub last week in Hackney doing some really exciting work with the DWP, Jobcentre Plus, colleges and skills providers. They are getting together to ensure that wherever you go there is no wrong door, but the waiting list is not helping matters. We have to do what we can ourselves.

Photo of Krupesh Hirani Krupesh Hirani Labour

Thank you. There has been progress made on tackling the disability employment gap. You mentioned the issue around Access to Work. Before coming to City Hall, working in the disability sector, it was known as the DWP’s best-kept secret. It is sad to see that it has deteriorated in the way that it has in recent months. The spreadsheets do not provide a real picture of what is happening out there. For example, the Government’s disability strategy was criticised by charities and deemed unlawful by the courts as well.

What more can the Government and City Hall do to provide ongoing support to disabled Londoners in the workplace so that they are paid fairly and also treated equally?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

It is really important that we at City Hall lead by example and so we have published now for the first time people’s pay and have included issues around not just gender and race but also disability. There is even in City Hall - and I say “even” because we should be leading by example - a disability pay gap. There are things we can do by involving disabled staff in decisions we are making when designing the new building and getting them involved in that, which we did, and so forth. Also, we need an action plan to respond to a disability pay gap.

There are things we can be doing ourselves in relation to putting our own house in order and then working with colleagues across the private sector as well. In City Hall, we have a Good Work Standard that you will be well aware of.  We work with more than 100 employers, and around 250,000 Londoners are now employed by Good Work Standard employers. We make sure we have in this issues around improving recruitment, retention and progression of disabled Londoners into work. With some of the work we are doing in relation to the Good Work mission, we are making sure that built into the DNA of that are issues around disability and other issues like race and gender as well.

TfL has tried to lead by example. It has an excellent Steps into Work 12-month programme where they take on disabled people and they work for pay in TfL. The Recovery Board is one way of getting everyone around the table to make sure, whether you are the National Health Service (NHS), TfL, the private sector, the voluntary and community sector or councils, we can get our own house in order and then show the country. If London can do it, why can’t you?

Photo of Onkar Sahota Onkar Sahota Labour

Assembly Member Hirani, I did not want to stop your flow, but it was not bickering that took place. Questions took place and Assembly Members on either side also were asking very serious questions. It is very important that we recognise that. Assembly Members even in the Tory Party are doing their job. It adds to the liveliness of the debate. I really wanted to just put that on record. Can I ask Assembly Member Boff to come in with a supplementary to this question?