The Scottish Government is working to ensure that everyone who wishes it has access to fair and sustainable work, with opportunities for progression. Fair start Scotland, our devolved employment service, supports people of all ages who face the greatest challenges in obtaining work by offering personalised one-to-one support that is tailored to individual circumstances. For participants with additional support needs, Fair start Scotland offers specialist support, including individual placement and support and supported employment, where appropriate.
In addition, our no one left behind model, which places people at the centre of design and delivery, provides employability support to individuals of all ages, including adults with additional support needs, and supports their journey towards and into work.
We continue to work with our partners, including the third sector, to understand the impact of Covid-19 on people with additional support needs, and to identify what actions would help to mitigate negative impacts on people who are seeking to enter or sustain employment.
Despite the Government continuing to promise to reduce the gap by at least half, the employment rate for disabled people still sits as low as 47.8 per cent, which compares with 81.3 per cent for those who are not disabled.
The Scottish National Party’s “A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People: employment action plan” sets out an interim target of an employment rate of 60 per cent for disabled people by 2030. To reach that milestone and, ultimately, to halve the gap, the employment rate of disabled people will need to increase by 1 percentage point every year.
Although the Government, having reached 45.6 per cent in 2018, is currently on target, there is concern that the target will be missed because the pandemic has disproportionately affected disabled workers. What further steps will the Government take to ensure that disabled people are supported during Scotland’s economic recovery?
If you will indulge me, Presiding Officer, I note that this will be my last exchange with Mary Fee, so I will quickly pay tribute to all the efforts that she has undertaken while in Parliament. On matters such as these in particular, she always addresses them constructively and on a non-partisan basis. I wish her well.
Mary Fee has picked up on an area that is of concern to me. She made the point that we have made progress and that, on the current trajectory, we will meet our target. However, I share her concern that Covid-19 has the potential to put things into reverse. Therefore, the work that we are undertaking through the no one left behind policy, the extension of fair start Scotland and the access to work stakeholder forum—which we have established despite access to work being a reserved responsibility—is important and very much designed to achieve the end that Mary Fee and I both want. That end is that we at least halve the disability employment gap and ensure fairness in our labour market.