More than half a million disabled young people will be hit by a double disadvantage as they try to move from education to employment unless urgent action is taken, disability groups have warned.
In a joint letter to Government ministers, a coalition of nine organisations led by the National Deaf Children’s Society has asked for changes to the Government’s Plan for Jobs to avoid a looming employment crisis among disabled young people aged 16-25.
Without the amendments, the group says that the double disadvantage of disability discrimination and a huge increase in competition for jobs caused by COVID-19 will leave disabled young people at a significant risk of long-term unemployment.
The organisations signing the letter include Thomas Pocklington Trust, Disability Rights UK, Genius Within, Leonard Cheshire, the National Development Team for Inclusion, Natspec, the Institute for Employment Studies and the Council for Disabled Children.
Among eight suggested changes, they want to see the Kickstarter Scheme expanded, Careers Advisors trained to work with disabled people and online job searching made more accessible.
They are also calling for the number of Disability Employment Advisors to be doubled and the £1,000 incentive for businesses taking on apprentices to be extended to all disabled young people, rather than just those with Education, Health and Care plans.
There are more than 500,000 disabled young people in the UK and the changes would unlock a generation of potential and give them all the chance to succeed, the organisations say.
Government figures from last year showed a 28.6% gap between the employment rates of disabled and non-disabled people.
Research by the National Deaf Children’s Society’s Youth Advisory Board showed a lack of tailored advice for deaf young people and little support available when entering work.
Steve Haines, Director of Policy and Campaigns at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said:
“The Government’s efforts to get young people into work are very promising, but we’re extremely concerned that those who are disabled will still struggle to access jobs.
“There’s a generation of potential available and the Government has the chance to unlock it, but unless changes are made to the Plan for Jobs, hundreds of thousands of disabled young people will face years of being left behind.
“They already battle discrimination throughout their lives and often find it harder to gain employment, so we cannot risk the gap getting any wider.
“The changes we’re proposing will mean the Government can build on the progress it has already made and give every disabled young person the chance to show what they can do.”