I am referring to a former Minister for the Disabled, the Rt Hon Mark Harper MP’s comments in an article in The Times on Tuesday, 8th October 2016. The article was titled ‘Hire Disabled Staff to Replace EU Workers, says ex-Minister’. Disabled workers could be the winners.
Initially, like many other people with a disability, I read this and was not impressed by the idea that employers should start recruiting disabled workers because they should be doing this anyway. I then thought about a specific point he makes about people with learning disabilities. Lets be clear about terms, learning disability is not the same as learning difficulty. When I managed one of the most successful placement teams in the South West of England, we often battled to improve the employment opportunities for people with learning disabilities. Many received some form of therapeutic unit based activity, but seldom go the opportunity to achieve paid work. I’m not talking about a few hours as part of their benefit entitlement, which often ended up supplementing the family income. I am talking about real paid jobs of 16 hours and Working Tax Credits. The barriers that we had to smash down were often put their by parents, carers and social workers with vested interests to leave things as they were.
I thought this was something in isolation until I heard Ian Duncan-Smith, Rt Hon MP being interviewed late last night on the BBC. He has apparently written a paper, which looks like it is being used to create a possible immigration model using work permits and caps as he explained. He mentions the notion that skilled in demand roles such as Doctors and Scientists would easily get work permits and as you move down to the unskilled work, you would have much tougher controls. This is where Mark Harper concentrates his assertion. I think after BREXIT employers will have to look at applicants from people with learning disabilities to do some of this work, so he is right to suggest that from a negative comes a positive.
However, Mark Harper aims to low with regard to his expectation that people with disabilities should not have more opportunity towards the higher skills end of the employment spectrum. I want to see more people with disabilities progress up the jobs ladder and this brings me on to something else. Until people with disabilities set their own ambitions higher and those around them allow them to succeed, this will not change.
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