This is a copy of the speech that I recently delivered at the Disability Confident Event at Greenock Town Hall. To find out more about the campaign please visit the following [link].
Firstly, I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have a small part in supporting the Disability Confident campaign and today’s event.
I know that behind the scenes both Eileen McClafferty and Liz Hopkins have undertaken a huge amount of work in making today’s event a success – so I’d like to thank them for all their efforts.
I’m sure they would agree with me that there are disabled people who are already making important contributions to the workforce. People who have the skills and confidence to create success for themselves and for the organisations that they work for.
However there are still too many disabled people who have never had the opportunity to build their working confidence and to reach their full potential.
We know that around one in five people of working age in Scotland are disabled. Creating more inclusive workplaces and opportunities for disabled people is not only vital for individuals, it’s an economic necessity for the whole country.
If we are to be successful then employers must be disability confident. They need to be aware of what support is available so that they can remove the barriers that prevent disabled people from utilising their talents.
We must also recognise that some employers have fears about hiring disabled people – we need to reassure them and increase their understanding of what support is available.
Many common misconceptions about disability have become embedded in our society and it’s our job to break down those myths.
Disabled people have the same ambition, work ethic and career goals as anyone else, but what they have lacked is opportunity. My hope for the future is that we create a fairer and more inclusive society, one that values talent regardless of a person’s circumstances.
I know that the Scottish Government already has a number of programmes in place to help disabled people as they seek employment, including the Targeted Employment Recruitment Incentive – which is helping young people who are disabled or have additional support needs.
The Disability Confident campaign will complement this work but we should be clear that while much has already been done – there is an opportunity to do more.
Today is a starting point for many people – employers and employees.
If we want to see Inverclyde thriving again we will need to draw on all the expertise and commitment of our local employers.
If we want to see Inverclyde thriving again we need to create opportunities for everyone in our workforce, especially disabled workers.
So whether you are an employer or employee, I hope today’s event will help you to find out what support is available.
We can make Inverclyde thrive again. I look forward to working with Eileen, Liz and others in reducing the disability employment gap and I know that Inverclyde can lead the way on that positive change.