The government has set an ambitious target: to increase the number of disabled people in work by a million across the decade 2017-2027. Action on Hearing Loss welcomed this goal; helping an additional million disabled people into work would have enormous benefits for them, creating new life opportunities and challenging the negative perceptions and barriers which hold back too many people.
This clearly is a long term goal requiring cooperation from across society, and no one government policy can be the silver bullet that transforms disabled peoples’ career prospects. The government has to look across society and bring together a coherent plan on education, transport, benefits, industrial strategy, health provision and many other areas. Only by doing this can the government create a society that provides disabled people with the opportunities their talents warrant.
However, there are a number of immediate things that the government can, and should, be doing to make a positive impact in the short term.
Disability information hub
All of our research has shown that employer attitudes is the key barrier people with hearing loss face in the workplace, and that employers themselves have raised the need for better information. In January 2017 we called for the government to bring forward better information provision on disability for employers. We heard repeatedly through our supporters and business leaders that a lack of knowledge and confidence can lead to poor employer attitudes.
One supporter told us: "My hearing problem meant that I needed somewhere quiet to work, my employer thought that sat in a corner surrounded by people on the telephone all day was acceptable. I ended up so stressed that I had to give up my job."
Changes promised by the government
We were therefore pleased that at our pre-election hustings we helped organise in May 2017, the then Minister for Disabled People, Penny Mordaunt MP, demonstrated the government’s commitment to this issue, saying:
"We need to bring all the advice and support that is there for employers together in one place so that we are making it easy for them to access that. We are currently designing a one-stop shop [for employers]… we have put together a business plan as we have been designing that to ensure that it is sustainable and can actually be properly marketed... We’ve got to make it easier for people to actually find what help and support is already out there."
It was therefore disappointing when the government’s Improving Lives strategy, published in November 2017, contained a much diminished promise. In a section on improving information and guidance, the government said:
"We will improve advice and support both at a national and local level, making sure it works for employers of all sizes, in particular for SMEs, and for their employees. We will start by researching and identifying potential solutions with employers this year. This will explore how we can most effectively bring together information for employers to meet their needs, and what information they most need access to."
But the government is not acting quickly enough to implement initiatives that could do so much to improve the prospects of people with disabilities at work. A year on from the launch of the Improving Lives strategy, the government has still not indicated that it has made any meaningful progress in the development of the hub. This isn’t good enough
That’s why we launched our petition calling on the government to stick to its promise of delivering on the disability information hub.
We’re asking the government to accelerate progress
Thanks to over 1,000 people who signed our petition, we can now demonstrate the level of backing our campaign has among people with deafness and hearing loss. The petition will be handed in to the Minister of State for Disabled People on 28 November 2018 along with a selection of powerful stories shared by you, and calling for action now. We also shared your experiences on our social media channels to demonstrate the real impact the lack of support has on your lives and how the government can change this.
We need your help to continue to keep pressure on the government to ensure that no one is left behind in the workplace. Please sign up to our campaigns updates and read more about the Working for Change campaign.