Disabled people are being overlooked for jobs thanks to employers’ outdated attitudes towards disability, a new report shows.
Latest government figures show there are a million disabled people in UK who are both willing and able to work but cannot find employment.
And research by disability charity Scope, in partnership with Virgin Media, has found that two in five unemployed disabled people are not confident about their chances of finding work in the next six months.
A poll of 2,000 disabled people found that half of job applications by disabled results in an interview, compared to 69% for non-disabled applicants.
More than a third (37%) of disabled people who don’t feel confident about getting a job believe employers won’t hire them because of their impairment or condition.
A further 27% believe they are less likely to be hired than a non-disabled candidate.
Lauren Pitt (pictured), a 24-year-old theology graduate from Gloucester, is registered blind and struggled to find work after leaving university.
“I think a lot of recruiters underestimated what I could do because of my impairment,” she said.
“In interviews, I spent most of my time explaining that I could do the job just as well as anyone else.
“Eventually I received an extremely positive email from an employer, inviting me for an interview and asking how they could make it best for me and if my guide dog would need any water.
“After the interview I was offered the job as an administrator for a social enterprise. It just shows how employers’ misguided attitudes can be a real barrier preventing disabled people finding work.”
Scope and Virgin Media are launching a three-year initiative called Work With Me, which aims to understand and tackle the barriers that stop disabled people getting into work.
Virgin is funding Scope’s new digital employment support service and the campaign is hoped to reach a million disabled people with employment information and support by the end of 2020.
Mark Atkinson, Scope’s chief executive, said: “Disabled people with all the skills to do the job are being repeatedly passed over for roles, while others are being forced to apply for jobs which they know they are overqualified for.
“Employers are missing out on the talent they badly need because they don’t have the right support in place or because of outdated attitudes towards disability.”
After working with Scope, Virgin is itself taking steps to better support disabled employees and customers, including extra training for staff and improving access in its buildings.
Virgin’s CEO Tom Mockridge said: “Working with Scope has been eye-opening and we’ve had to face some hard truths to better understand and address the challenges disabled people face.
“It’s inspired us to launch the Work With Me campaign with Scope. Together, we’re asking industry, government and the public to join us and support more disabled people get into and stay in work.”