New legal duty may open doors for disabled workforce

Improved rights for disabled people could create thousands of job
opportunities at local authorities, including social services

From December 2006, government departments, councils and some
private and voluntary sector service providers will have a specific
duty to integrate the needs of disabled people into their policies
and plans.

Campaigners hope the new duty, under the Disability Discrimination
Act 2005, will result in local authorities taking a more positive
approach to recruiting disabled people and ensuring they are more
desirable environments to work in.

Simone Aspis, campaigns officer for the British Council of Disabled
People, says: “Public bodies will be required to promote jobs more
widely by advertising in specific disability magazines or with
disability organisations.”

She says the new duty should encourage local authorities to adapt
jobs to the needs of individuals and offer more workplace support.

“The way work is organised does stop some disabled people getting
into employment,” Aspis says. “If someone becomes disabled through
an accident everything should be done to keep them within their
existing role or find a new one within the organisation. For
example, it is often specified that social workers need to drive
but most of the skills for the job aren’t about that.”

The Employers Organisation for local government has been looking at
job remodelling. Jane Wren, head of diversity, says: “We’ve looked
at whether some parts of jobs traditionally done by someone with
certain skills and qualifications can be done by someone else
without them or whether we can give someone the skills. It has
worked well in the education sector and is a matter of getting the
job to fit the person.”

Wren says she hopes the new public duty will bring more disabled
people into the sector but warns proving it so could be difficult.
“There are no base line figures so will be difficult to show. Part
of the problem is that some people that don’t have a visible
disability might not be prepared to declare it.”

Under the legislation, people with some chronic illnesses,
including cancer and HIV, will be classed as disabled.

Wren hopes the focus will not be so much on employing more disabled
people but on promotion opportunities.

But Aspis is optimistic that the new act will encourage flexibility
in recruitment. “By providing more training opportunities and
recognising transferable skills people may have gained through
previous jobs or from experiences as a service user perhaps it will
help them consider a career in the sector.”

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.