Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid)
Meeting date: Thursday, December 15, 2022
Official Report 1190KB pdf
Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Points of Order, Year of Disabled Workers 2022, Portfolio Question Time, Budget 2023-24, Asset Transfers and Community Empowerment, Business Motion, Decision Time
- General Question Time
- First Minister’s Question Time
- Points of Order
- Year of Disabled Workers 2022
- Portfolio Question Time
- Budget 2023-24
- Asset Transfers and Community Empowerment
- Business Motion
- Decision Time
Year of Disabled Workers 2022
The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S6M-06755, in the name of Pam Duncan-Glancy, on the Unison year of disabled workers 2022. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.
That the Parliament celebrates UNISON and its recognition of 2022 as the Year of Disabled Workers; understands that UNISON is using these 12 months to promote disability in the workplace by highlighting the experiences of its disabled members as well as the value and insight that they bring to the union and workplace; notes that, with 200,000 disabled members, UNISON calls for a greater enforcement of legal rights, including the fundamental right to reasonable adjustments at work; recognises that the main aims of the Year of Disabled Workers include raising awareness of the social model of disability and the importance of changes to the workplace and working practices, explaining the implications of the disability pay gap as well as how it may be addressed, increasing members’ confidence to self-define as disabled, and increasing the number of disabled activists in the union, and thanks UNISON for its continued representation of disabled workers, including in the Glasgow region.12:52
I start by thanking Unison for designating 2022 as the year of disabled workers. It has been a fantastic opportunity to highlight the value that disabled people bring to the workplace, and I am honoured to be able to use my platform to highlight their contribution in the chamber, and to do so in front of Unison members in the gallery.
Over the past 12 months, Unison and its 200,000 disabled members have campaigned to raise awareness of the importance of changes in the workplace to support disabled workers. They have highlighted the disability pay gap, employment gaps and increased confidence in an individual’s right to self-define as disabled. Their continued efforts to support, represent and empower disabled workers across Scotland, including in the Glasgow region, which I represent, are important for the more than 1 million disabled people across our country.
This year has not only been about celebrating the contribution that disabled people make; it has also shone a light into the dark place of the stark inequalities that disabled people face in the workplace. Disabled people are half as likely to get into the workplace in the first place—only 46 per cent of disabled people in Scotland are in work, compared with 81 per cent of their non-disabled peers. Let me be absolutely clear: that gap is not down to a lack of skill or talent or a lack of desire to work; it is down to a fundamental lack of support and failures in the systems and structures that should take account of disabled people’s rights and make reasonable adjustments. Quite frankly, it is down to discrimination.
Disabled people are being failed from the off. The inequality starts when we are young. At the age of 16, disabled people have the same aspirations as their non-disabled peers, but by the time that they reach the age of 26, they believe that nothing that they can do will change their life. We are failing young people at the time when they should be building the blocks to meet their dreams and aspirations. My Disabled Children and Young People (Transitions to Adulthood) (Scotland) Bill seeks to address that, and I hope to have the support of Parliament at stage 1 next year.
Is the true tragedy not that, when the able-bodied community fails to see the imagination, intelligence and wisdom of disabled people and the unique contribution that they can make, we do a great disservice to all our communities?
I whole-heartedly agree with that statement. I have said often—and possibly once or twice in the chamber—that disabled people are innovative by design, because just getting up in the morning requires innovation. We should not lose that in the workplace or in society.
The older that disabled people get, the longer the list of the ways in which we fail them gets and the more we damage their ability to realise their full potential. If we are to have a fighting chance, we need to end the in-built discrimination that exists in our systems and structures that holds disabled people back.
We also need trade unions, because, as is the case with all workers’ rights, it is trade unions that are at the forefront of the fight of disabled workers, and it is unions such as Unison that fight the injustices that disabled people face every day. This campaign is a shining example of that. It is essential that all employers, colleagues and workplaces know what support must be in place for disabled employees.
We need more workplaces to engage with the disability confident employer scheme, but we also need a scheme in Scotland that has teeth, as the voluntary nature of that scheme means that not enough is being done yet. Employers should not only work to make their workplaces better for their current disabled employees but actively seek to demonstrate inclusive practices in order to attract more disabled workers, so that they can benefit from the potential that such workers can bring.
That is why one of the key goals of the year of disabled workers is to increase disabled people’s confidence in coming out in the workplace. For 43.6 per cent of the workforce, it is simply unknown whether they have a disability, and declaration rates have fallen to 57.6 per cent. That means that almost half of disabled workers do not feel comfortable making their employer aware of their disability, and they are likely to miss out on reasonable adjustments as a result.
Just like anyone else, disabled workers have a right to a workplace and a right to access support. Thanks to a Labour Government, the Equality Act 2010 gives disabled people rights to support at work through the anticipatory duty on employers, and we should always uphold that principle.
We have all heard about fit-for-work assessments. Today, I ask that we use all the Parliament’s powers—including in areas such as procurement, public sector contracting and business support—to ensure that employers are fit to employ. It is essential that Scotland’s disabled workers know what support they are entitled to and what rights they have in the workplace.
Disabled people and their valuable contribution to the workplace have been overlooked for way too long, and that must change. If we are to truly reap the benefits of what Scotland’s disabled workers have to offer, we need bold action that seeks to close the disability pay and employment gaps, that encourage workplaces to be more inclusive and that increases the confidence of disabled people to self-define and talk to their employers about their disability and the needs that come along with it. Above all, we need to do more to celebrate Scotland’s hugely talented disabled workforce.
As I bring my speech to a close, I say this to employers: your workforce will be enriched immensely because of disabled people, so please do all that you can to empower them to tell you about their disability without fear of losing their job or being treated differently. It is your moral, economic and legal duty to do that and to make your workplace open and welcoming for all.
To disabled people across the country, I say this: be proud and be vocal. You have rights, you are innovative by design and employers must not miss out on that. Be proud of your diversity, claim your rights and—yes—join a union.
Finally, I reiterate my thanks to Unison and all its members, and I congratulate them on all the work that they have done so far this year to keep a focus on disabled workers. I make a plea to colleagues in the chamber that we should listen and take note. It is on all of us to work relentlessly to carry on the great work that has started this year and to ensure that disabled workers are employed not just this year but for every year to come.12:59
I thank Pam Duncan-Glancy for lodging the motion for debate. Her work on disability and social justice is never anything short of impressive, and although the two of us will have ideological disagreements, I am always sure that she makes points that she genuinely believes in, and that she does so for the right reasons. I am glad to have the opportunity to support her motion today.
I am glad that the motion refers to the social model of disability and that it encourages disabled people to self-identify as disabled and to reach out, get support and join their communities. Sadly, there is a current campaign that is trying to claw back progress and promote a regressive medical model, which is completely contrary to what disabled people have been fighting for for decades. There is no register of disabled people, and no disability is experienced in the same way by every person who has the diagnosis. Everyone’s needs and aspirations are different, which is why the social model is important. We need to empower people to know what they need and then ask for it. Importantly, they should do so with the confidence that any adjustments will be made by their employer.
I often think that being disabled should be recognised as some sort of qualification, because the sheer amount of advocacy that is involved just to exist and the life admin that they have to take on would shock and appall those who are unfamiliar with it.
This week, I had the pleasure of visiting L’Arche Highland in Inverness, where people with and without learning disabilities live and work together. My visit took place on Monday, and I still feel really uplifted by the morning that I spent there with people who were so welcoming and unapologetically and passionately proud of the work that they do and the community that they have built together. We know that many—or even most—employers are hesitant to hire disabled people, but I saw disabled people making beautiful candles and woodwork and growing house plants to sell. Other people in the life skills workshop were doing accountancy work and planning more parties this year than I have been to in my whole life. I am grateful to them for letting me into their community and talking openly to me as one of their MSPs.
A while ago, there was the #BeingDisabledDoesDefineMe campaign on Twitter, and I loved the stories that were being shared. A lot of the time, people talk about disability as something that needs to be overcome and that takes away dignity, or they treat disability as inspiration porn. However, many disabled people recognise that being disabled has not shaped them in a bad way; often, it has given them an understanding of issues, has created community or has given them skills that they might not otherwise have picked up in life. Disability can be a strength, and we should be able to celebrate that.
The Scottish Government is a disability confident employer. Within the Scottish Government, reasonable adjustments are called workplace adjustments, because the Government is committed to going further than legal compliance. I hope that more employers will consider the benefits of becoming more progressive and inclusive. Workplaces can benefit from diversity, varied experiences in the workforce and disabled people’s input and ideas. If we make a workplace accessible, we not only make it safe for disabled people—although that should be enough for everyone—but create a flexible workplace for everybody who works there. A workplace that is willing to make adjustments for disability will be more resilient and able to make adjustments for people who have caring responsibilities or other time conflicts.
Once again, I thank Pam Duncan-Glancy for raising the issue.13:03
I thank my friend Pam Duncan-Glancy for securing the debate, and I commend Unison for running the important campaign. I welcome its representatives to the chamber.
Disability employment is not an issue that can be wished away. It will take assertive action to bring about positive change, and all members of Parliament have a role to play to ensure that there are no barriers to disability inclusion in the workplace. There is a danger that we all pat ourselves on the back and then head off for lunch. However, we do not need just words; we need cross-party working and the Scottish and Westminster Governments need to do more about the issue.
With the Presiding Officer’s permission, I will make three brief points relating to disabled workers. First, we need to ensure that there are as few barriers as possible to entering the workplace. Less than 50 per cent of working-age disabled people in Scotland are in employment, which signals that there is something seriously wrong with the way that we are approaching the issue. That needs to be addressed at various levels by employers, the Government and local government.
We need to make sure that no one is missing out on vital education that helps disabled people to get into employment, and we must ensure that everyone has access to support that develops their employability skills, such as CV building. That, of course, is over and above ensuring that everyone—whether they are disabled or not—has access to the highest level of education that is suitable and available. If we want to encourage disabled people into work, we must give them the tools that are required.
We are living in a potential golden age of flexible working. One of the few positives to come out of the pandemic is that employers are much more comfortable with accommodating, and able to accommodate, working patterns that deviate from the traditional 9-to-5 working day in a centralised office. Working from home or with a hybrid model is becoming the norm, which means that commuting and/or timing constraints can be overcome with little difficulty. That is a perfect opportunity for business to work with the disabled communities to adopt working practices for a lifetime that will encourage them into the workforce, which would benefit both sides.
That brings me to my final point, which is that tackling disabled employment is not a handout to disabled people. There is a massive amount of benefit for business to be gained from the wealth of experience and fresh perspective that disabled people have and that they bring to the employment market. I have found that, often, our society can severely underestimate those who are disabled and assume that a disability of any kind leads to an inability to contribute.
In reality, disabled people are more than capable, and I am sure that all of us will assert that they bring benefits to any place of work—as demonstrated by Pam Duncan-Glancy. No one can disagree that the Parliament benefits greatly from her contributions. I will leave it to others to judge my contribution, but I say that any of my shortcomings—which are many—exist independently of my disability.
I again thank Unison for running its important campaign. I hope that we will go into next year with not only warm words but positive action from all of us.13:07
I congratulate my colleague Pam Duncan-Glancy on securing the debate in recognition and celebration of Unison’s year of disabled workers campaign. Throughout 2022, Unison has campaigned to highlight the experience of disabled members and the value that they bring to their workplaces and call for better enforcement of their legal rights, particularly the right to reasonable adjustments in the workplace.
That campaign is one of many examples in which trade unions are standing up at the moment—as they have done throughout their history—to advocate for good working conditions in the form of accessible, comfortable and safe workplaces for all workers including, most importantly for the debate, disabled workers. It fundamentally shows the value and importance of our trade unions and the trade union movement that they stand for all workers and, even more so, for workers who face significant barriers to making their contribution in the workplace and our society—shattering glass ceilings and glass staircases, as Pam Duncan-Glancy is fond of saying.
We have already heard that the pandemic has fast tracked the need to prioritise accessibility and adaptability in the workplace and brought many of those issues into sharp focus. Sadly, it is still the reality that disabled people face a unique set of challenges in accessing not only employment but education and training that can lead to further employment. The lack of access that disabled people experience means that they can be less likely to have a degree or equivalent qualification and are more likely to be unemployed or in part-time employment due to the barriers that they might face when seeking employment.
In my working life before coming to the Parliament—or, as I sometimes refer to it, my previous life—I worked for Enable Scotland and saw at first hand the extraordinary work that organisations can do to support disabled people into meaningful work. We all have to reflect on the work that is being done in concert with trade unions and organisations such as Enable Scotland to deliver on real and meaningful job support. The reality is that it takes finance, funding and the will of organisations to be able to make the changes that are required, support someone on every step of the journey and ensure that the jobs that they are given are meaningful and suitable for them as a person, not just any job or a job that was considered to be suitable for them by someone who does not have that lived experience.
It is beyond time that we made a clear commitment that work should be truly accessible for all. We have to support and empower employers to make their working practices inclusive for all, irrespective of the barriers that individual employees may face.
We also have to consider going further in order to speed up the process of making workplaces accessible and supportive spaces for disabled workers. We all know that the stark reality is that it is harder for a disabled person to get a job in Scotland than it is elsewhere in the UK. Figures reported by the Office for National Statistics in 2022 noted that Scotland had the widest disability pay gap of any UK nation, which rose to 18.5 per cent earlier this year. We would all agree that that figure is unacceptable, and I am confident that members from all parties across the chamber will want to commit to redoubling efforts to reduce those figures.
That is also why I am pleased that we can make other interventions. I highlight at this stage my colleague Pam Duncan-Glancy’s Disabled Children and Young People (Transitions to Adulthood) (Scotland) Bill. It is a very important bill that could play a crucial role in tackling the disparity experienced in employment between able-bodied and disabled workers. We have to ensure that future generations do not fall into a system with cracks that prevent them from transitioning out of the school system and into education, training or work. I hope that colleagues will look at that bill in great detail when it comes to Parliament.
I encourage the minister, after listening to today’s contributions, to commit to reassessing what specific actions the Scottish Government can take to eradicate the discrimination and inequality experienced by disabled people when they are in the labour market and looking for work and when they are in the workplace. We can and must do better. I put on record once again my thanks to Unison and all our trade unions for the work that they do to support disabled workers day in, day out.13:11
Together with my Scottish Green colleagues, and as a trade unionist, I whole-heartedly welcome the Unison campaign of the year of disabled workers. I am proud that the campaign originated in Scotland and that my committee colleague, Pam Duncan-Glancy, has played such a leading role in making it a powerful reality—thank you for bringing this debate to the chamber. I also pay tribute to the work of Unison Scotland disabled members, and thank them for the engaging and informative question-and-answer session that they organised a few weeks ago.
The campaign is of course primarily about improving the working lives of disabled people. In view of the yawning education, employment, and especially pay gaps that the campaign highlights, nothing could be more important. Unison rightly calls upon employers and Governments to do much more, particularly with regard to the collection and publication of data. Without accurate measurement, it is all too easy to be complacent and imagine that we are doing much better than we really are.
Another vital strand of the campaign is about education: educating us all about the realities of disability, of experience, and of policy.
On that point, does Maggie Chapman agree that a disabled commissioner, which I am proposing, would give that voice to the disabled community? Would she like to sign my proposal so that it can come before Parliament next year?
As Jeremy Balfour knows, I have discussed with him previously how it would be best to take that forward. I look forward to further discussions and pledge to engage with him on that over the coming weeks.
We need to focus on education in order to educate us all about the realities of disability, experience, policy and how we can be better colleagues, neighbours and allies. Central to that understanding is an appreciation of the social model of disability. We need to recognise, and remind ourselves and others, that disability does not reside in any impairment itself, but in negative social responses to it: in embedded barriers, in discrimination and prejudice, and in ableist attitudes and structural exclusions. Individualised, medical and welfare models of disability still predominate in many contexts and still represent—as uncomfortable as it may be to admit it—a social oppression as real as any other.
Along with the social model comes the concept of independent living: the recognition that, with the removal of barriers and appropriate personal support, both of which are eminently achievable, disabled people can exercise their full and equal rights to live and work and love and play. Those two understandings—of the social model of disability and of independent living—are, I believe, transformative for not only disabled people but all of us. Inclusion is good for everyone. Those two things also have significant implications for how we see the past, the present and the future.
Crucially, those revolutionary realisations came not from mainstream organisations for disabled people but from groups of disabled people and from grass-roots initiatives that came about in circumstances of great suffering, of extreme oppression and of extraordinary, yet normalised, exclusion. We must not forget that incremental change to a fundamentally cruel status quo brings neither liberation nor justice.
Those insights, which paternalistic agencies were quite unable to achieve, have had a groundbreaking effect on how the rights of disabled people are protected, not least in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which we look forward to seeing incorporated into Scottish law.
That has, or can have, similar effects on how other forms of discrimination and marginalisation are identified and challenged. None of us, however privileged, is entirely independent or able to exercise our rights and freedoms without the support of others. In the intersection between disability and feminist activism, we can recognise and celebrate our universal interdependence, our shared vulnerability and the new spaces that we can fill with hope and creativity.
That knowledge should—and must—inform how we in this Parliament develop policy, enact legislation and do implementation. Educated by the past and present, we need, for our shared future, participation that is wide, deep and serious. We need to acknowledge, with humility and sorrow, the ways in which people who know most about the issue are excluded from decision making. People know about their own lives. We need co-operation, integrity and solidarity in shared struggles, and I thank Pam Duncan-Glancy and Unison once again for the opportunity to remember that.13:17
I, too, thank my colleague Pam Duncan-Glancy for bringing this important debate to the chamber. I know that she has worked tirelessly throughout her career on this cause, and that she will continue to fight for disabled workers and alongside the trade unions that represent them. If there is one thing that I know about working in this place, it is that Pam Duncan-Glancy has plenty of fight.
Unison’s year of disabled workers is a year-long campaign across the UK to improve the working lives of disabled people. As we have heard, the campaign was developed in Scotland following a motion from a Scottish branch, which was then rolled out as a national campaign and supported by the wider trade union movement. That is a real achievement by the Scottish branch. I congratulate Unison on its initiative and on its work throughout the year. Its work to find ways to support and celebrate the diversity of workers in the workplace shows unions at their best.
Before moving on, I must mention the scale of the problem, which my colleague Paul O’Kane spoke about. Unison has provided us with a briefing on the detail, and it is important to know the detail to understand the changes that we need to make. The situation is clear: in Scotland today, disabled people are less likely to be in employment, education or training; they are more likely to have low or no qualifications at Scottish credit and qualifications framework level 4; they are less likely to have a degree or equivalent qualification; they are more likely to be in part-time employment; they are more likely to face additional barriers; they are less likely to work in higher managerial positions; and they are less likely to work in professional occupations. I do not think that any of us is shocked by that, but we should be, because it is absolutely unacceptable.
In my life before coming to the Parliament, I was lucky enough to have a job that allowed me to support and work with many disabled people, the bulk of which was working with adults with learning disability. That group of people inspired me, motivated me and taught me a lot about life, and I am ever grateful for the time that I spent working in that area. I mention that because, looking back, it strikes me just how few of the people who I supported had paid work. That is a sad and unnecessary situation, when I consider how capable, reliable and keen to work those people were.
I am saddened that the employment rate for people with learning disability across the UK has fallen to a low of just 4.8 per cent. It is shocking that only 4.8 per cent of a group of people who are motivated, reliable and want to work are in employment. People with disability have the right to work and it is incumbent on the Government to ensure that the world of work is a welcoming and suitably adjusted environment. The Equality Act 2010 offers a range of protections to disabled people, but workplace discrimination still affects many people across the UK. We must all do more.
I recently visited an impressive social enterprise in my region called the Usual Place. When I clicked on its website, a message said:
“Did you know ... we are a Disability Confident Leader with 70% of our staff force having a disability”.
That is a claim to be proud of. I invite everyone to visit the Usual Place, which provides a cafe, shop and conference facilities that are truly excellent. I recommend a visit. It is in a beautiful setting and has excellent staff and tasty food. The preparations there are about providing real experiences for people.
Emma Harper (South Scotland (SNP) rose—
I will take an intervention from Emma Harper.
Ms Harper, your card is not in, so your microphone was not on. As generous as that compliment was, it will not be on the record.
My absolute apologies, Presiding Officer.
I just wanted to highlight that the Usual Place is in Dumfries, and I have been there on several occasions. Does Carol Mochan agree that we should encourage people to visit it?
Absolutely. I knew that the member would have visited the Usual Place, which is an experience that all members should have. It has a very high success rate and it should be supported.
The value of Unison’s initiative is clear and it shows the power of a union to raise such important issues up and down the country. I thank Unison and other unions for their support and work to preserve and protect disabled workers. I join Pam Duncan-Glancy in asking disabled workers to join a union. Finally, I repeat my thanks to Pam Duncan-Glancy for allowing us to debate the issue and keep fighting.13:22
It is a pleasure to congratulate Pam Duncan-Glancy on securing the debate and to thank her for all the work that she does on the issue. It is also a pleasure to speak in the debate as a member and former employee of Unison. I worked as a lawyer for Unison for several years and therefore I am very aware of the work that Unison does to promote and fight for the improvement of the rights of its disabled members. Unison is quite an unusual union in that it was created in the 1990s, which means that equalities have always been at the heart of its work and are seen as a core part of the culture of the union.
I congratulate Unison on making 2022 the year of disabled workers and on using the year to highlight the experience of its 200,000 disabled members. As Emma Roddick said, one of the aims of the year of disabled workers is to raise awareness of the social model of disability and for that model to be used rather than the traditional medical model of disability. Another aim is to raise the importance of the changes that are necessary in workplace and working practices to enable disabled people to work. We know that it is more difficult for disabled people to get employment and that, as the motion says, there is a considerable disability pay gap, with disabled people earning less than others. As Paul O’Kane said, the situation is worse in Scotland. As a Parliament, we need to focus on that.
Paul O’Kane also spoke about barriers that disabled people face in getting access to education. It is more difficult for them to obtain good employment if they do not have the right qualifications and skills. There remains a considerable amount of discrimination against disabled people in our society, particularly in the workplace. More support is needed to ensure that reasonable adjustments are made.
In yesterday’s debate on free rail travel for blind and partially sighted people and companions, members highlighted the importance of public transport in enabling people to get to work and accessing employment and other social connections. That debate was specifically about the 180,000 people living with sight loss in Scotland, but the accessibility of public transport for many disabled people is a key factor in the ability to get to work.
We need to listen to what disabled people—those who have been able to obtain work and those who have not—say about their experiences, so that we can ensure that we take every action necessary to support and enable as many disabled people as possible. We need to include the trade unions in that work on our policy and practice. Organisations such as Unison represent in the region of 200,000 disabled workers, and the other unions also work with their disabled members.
We have heard clearly that Scotland has much to do to rise to the challenge. I look forward to hearing from the minister about the actions that the Scottish Government is taking to ensure that the situation improves.
I call the minister to respond to the debate.13:26
I thank all speakers for their thoughtful contributions to the debate, particularly Pam Duncan-Glancy, who is the sponsor of the motion and who had powerful insights on the challenges faced by disabled people in Scotland who want to work. Of course, as she and other members have said, there is a loss to Scotland from not making it easy or practicable for disabled people to work and contribute to Scotland’s economy. Those contributions have been very important indeed.
I thank Carol Mochan for reminding me of my excellent visit to the Usual Place in Dumfries, where I met the remarkable staff and workers along with those on placements and others, as well as having a very tasty lunch and meeting members of the public. It was a memorable visit. Many members mentioned various organisations across the country and said that they are doing great work on this agenda.
I congratulate Unison on its work in the year of disabled workers in 2022. Unison undertakes important work in the area, and the Government will continue working with it and other trade unions to achieve our shared objective of improving disabled people’s employment. As members have said, it is important to recognise that disabled people make a hugely significant contribution to Scotland’s economy. It is the morally right thing to do to support more disabled people into and in work.
Our latest statistics on the disability employment gap show that, between 2016, when it was 37.4 per cent, and 2021, the gap has reduced by 6.2 per cent to 31.2 per cent. That reduction was due to a larger rise in the employment rate of disabled people relative to the increase in the employment rate of non-disabled people. That means, we hope, that we are on track to achieve our ambition to halve the gap to 18.7 per cent by 2038.
Last week, as members will be aware, we published our refreshed fair work action plan, which sets out in further detail how we will go about progressing that work. The plan incorporates actions to meet our commitment to at least halve the disability employment gap and enhance disabled workers’ access to and experience of the labour market. The refreshed action plan brings together our original fair work plan, our gender pay gap and disabled people’s employment action plans, and actions from our new anti-racist employment strategy.
There are other strategies—Paul O’Kane challenged me to refer to a couple. I should say that the Scottish Government is working closely with disabled people’s organisations and their members to develop a new disability equality strategy that will build on “A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People”.
We have allocated £5 million of our equality and human rights fund to support disabled people’s organisations, deliver work that is focused on tackling inequality and discrimination, further equality and advance the realisation of human rights in Scotland overall. We are also working with Disability Information Scotland, which is currently creating a step-by-step employment guide that sets out what action disabled people can take if they have problems or issues at any stage of their employment, including recruitment, the interview stages and onwards to employment. That organisation is funded through the Scottish Government. I wanted to give a couple of examples in the light of some of the points that members have raised.
As was the case with our original plan, “A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People: Employment Action Plan”, which we published back in 2018, the refreshed plan endorses the social model of disability, which many members have mentioned. In that model, it is not the disabled person’s impairment or disability that creates barriers; rather, barriers are created by society. We recognise that opinions about self-identifying as disabled can vary; however, employers have a clear legal requirement not to discriminate against disabled people and to ensure that they make reasonable adjustments.
The creation of diverse and inclusive workplaces in this country is central to our fair work first approach. Disabled people should always feel safe to share, where they wish to do so, that they are disabled and whether they require any adjustments that can assist them in their workplace. The fair work action plan also focuses on issues that Jeremy Balfour and others mentioned, including flexible and hybrid working, which was mentioned specifically. Our vision for fair work is shared by the Fair Work Convention, and we want Scotland to be a leading fair work nation by 2025. Of course, we do not have responsibility for employment powers—they lie with the UK Government—but the fair work agenda has an important role to play in the context of today’s discussion.
Alongside our fair work action plan, we share Ms Duncan-Glancy’s ambition to improve the experiences of disabled young people as they make the transition to adulthood. We will introduce Scotland’s first national transitions to adulthood strategy in the current session of Parliament. The member mentioned that she has introduced her own member’s bill. We want to ensure that there is a joined-up approach to supporting our disabled young people as they make the transition to adult life.
The importance of lived experience is reflected in our policies, and members have mentioned how important that is. We very much recognise the importance of drawing on the voice of lived experience in order to listen to what disabled people have told us about the challenges that they face, and so that we can work together to find deliverable solutions.
We developed the new fair work action plan in conjunction with disabled people and representative organisations as well as the other stakeholder groups that we spoke to. Similarly, disabled people informed the development of our charter for our no one left behind approach to employability support.
I will mention a couple of final measures before I close. We are currently reviewing the public sector equality duty in Scotland. Results from our consultation earlier this year showed wide support for the publication of information on the disability pay gap, which is an issue that many members have mentioned today. We will take forward work on the review of the duty in the new year. Back in 2019, the Scottish Government, as an employer, published our “Scottish Government Recruitment and Retention Plan for Disabled People 2019”. As part of the delivery of that plan, we established a dedicated workplace adjustments team for the Scottish Government workforce in January this year.
We have also developed an employee passport, which facilitates conversations between employees and line managers about any circumstances that may impact them at work, including disability. As the Scottish Government, we hope to go above and beyond our legal requirements as an employer. I look forward to working with our trade union movement, which we also support with £2.3 million-worth of funding through Scottish Union Learning; with members on all sides of the chamber; and with all parties, as we try to address the very serious issues that Unison has highlighted during its year of disabled workers, and which Pam Duncan-Glancy has raised in her members’ business debate today. The need to address those issues is supported by members on all sides of the chamber, and I look forward to working with them all to deliver a better deal for Scotland’s disabled people.
That concludes the debate.13:33 Meeting suspended.
14:00 On resuming—
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