Three years ago, the Social Market Foundation recommended that Sadiq Khan should set up a Disability Employment Taskforce. Two years ago, a similar call was made by the London Assembly economy committee, of which I am now deputy chair. Yet no such taskforce has been set up. Why does that matter?
The simple answer is that a lot of disabled people are out of work and being denied the opportunity to work. When the Social Market Foundation report was published in 2018, the employment rate for disabled Londoners stood at 46.5 per cent, meaning there were around 370,000 of them out of work. By contrast, 85 per cent of non-disabled Londoners had jobs.
Moreover, the average figures across London hide significant variations between the London boroughs, from a disability employment rate of 20 per cent in Richmond to over 50 per cent in Hammersmith & Fulham. To live in a city where in some boroughs only one in four disabled people are working is simply shameful. More recent figures are not yet available because the Office for National Statistics has suspended their collection pending an update of its methodology, but it is still clear that real action is needed.
A Disability Employment Taskforce could play a key role in developing intervention strategies to close the disability employment gap and, critically, ensure that all approaches to addressing the issue are effectively joined up. London has a range of initiatives and schemes for supporting disabled people into employment, but they are not addressing the problem fully.
There are already opportunities out there and the increase in home working is creating more. Making the most of these changes could significantly unlock work opportunities for many disabled people, but it will not happen on its own. The Mayor could play a unique role in bringing about change. A mayoral taskforce would help ensure policies are implemented to both increase job entry and ensure good levels of job retention for disabled people. We also need to understand the reasons why disabled employment rates vary so much across London and address them.
New ONS figures are expected to be available in the next few weeks, giving us a clearer view of the employment gap for disabled people in London. If, as many expect, the figures are as bleak as in previous years, I hope the Mayor will think again.
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