Posted on: 21st March 2021.

Business leaders have backed a call for the Prime Minister to deliver on his promise of a truly transformative National Strategy for Disabled People.

In an open letter to Boris Johnson, business leaders including Post Office CEO, Nick Read, Schroders CEO, Peter Harrison, and Clifford Chance Global Managing Partner, Matthew Layton, have all urged him to deliver an ambitious and transformative disability plan that ensures all disabled people are able to realise their full potential.

The letter is supported by the CSJ Disability Commission, an independent body, which is about to publish “Now Is The Time”, a ground-breaking new report designed to feed into the Prime Minister’s National Strategy.

One of the CSJ Disability Commission’s five key recommendations is to reduce the disability employment gap by introducing mandatory workforce reporting, which it believes is a vital step in bringing greater transparency and a level playing field for measuring progress.

Lord Shinkwin, Commission Chair, says, "Disabled people have been waiting an awfully long time for this. We really hope the Prime Minister will listen and build our recommendations into his upcoming National Strategy for Disabled People. As the PM has said, his strategy is a once in a generation opportunity. It is vital that we seize it and chart a new course that is more than just warm words. Now is the time for action."

Business leaders have today called on the Prime Minister to deliver on his promise of a truly transformative National Strategy for Disabled People.

In an open letter, over a dozen senior business leaders have urged Boris Johnson to keep his promise to make it the most ambitious disability plan in a generation and to consider the CSJ Disability Commission’s ground-breaking new report.

Agreeing with the PM that there should be no barriers to anyone realising their full potential, they have explicitly linked the success of the Strategy to his flagship levelling-up agenda, which promises to increase opportunity across the UK.

In the letter, the signatories say, "disabled people have waited long enough and now is the time for action". They urge the PM to show in his strategy that he has given careful consideration to the Commission’s recommendations and say, in return, "we stand ready to play our part".

Disabled people have been hit particularly hard by Coronavirus according to the ONS and concerted action by Government and business is crucial to reducing the disability employment gap, which has widened as a result of the pandemic. Currently, just 52 per cent of disabled people are in employment compared with 81 per cent of non-disabled people.

The CSJ Disability Commission makes five key recommendations to reduce the gap:

  • Increasing supported routes into employment
  • Introducing mandatory employment and pay gap reporting
  • Leveraging Government procurement
  • Reforming the Government’s Disability Confident scheme
  • Reforming the Government’s Access to Work scheme

The Commission’s report argues a central feature of the Government’s National Strategy for Disabled People must be the inclusion of robust measures focused on improving disabled people’s employment prospects. It argues that until employment disadvantage is addressed, disabled people will continue to face social exclusion, financial hardship, and reduced well-being.The CSJ Disability Commission is chaired by disabled Conservative member of the House of Lords, Kevin Shinkwin and comprised of both disabled and non-disabled members from the business, disability and parliamentary world.

Lord Shinkwin says, "The Prime Minister’s strategy represents a once in a generation chance to chart a new way forward where disabled people’s potential to contribute, compete and, in some cases, excel and reach the top of their professions, on merit, can at last be realised. We have one shot at this - that’s why it’s so important his strategy gets it right. What makes this even more exciting is that big business is ready to get behind him"

The Commission was set up with the backing of the DFN Foundation to feed into the Prime Minister’s National Strategy for Disabled People. The DFN Foundation, founded by David Forbes-Nixon, is committed to developing a new enabling vision that will seize the disability employment agenda and drive tangible and sustainable change.

David Forbes-Nixon, Commission Deputy Chair, says, “Having a disabled son has opened up my eyes to the inequalities in education, employment and life chances for disabled people in the UK. I hope the Commission’s recommendations, particularly in employment, will be embraced by the Prime Minister in his National Strategy for Disabled People so we can draw on this extraordinary and untapped talent pool.”

The Commission’s report is especially relevant now as data reveals that disabled people have suffered disproportionately during the pandemic – in physical health, mental health, and economically – compared to non-disabled people.

Importantly, the report extends beyond employment to cover four other areas of life for disabled people: transport, education, housing, and access to goods and services. It makes extensive policy recommendations which, if enacted, would substantially increase the ability of disabled people to participate more fully in society and realise their potential.

Tanni, Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE, gold medal-winning former Paralympian and a Commissioner, says, “Despite the very welcome improvements in legislation since the Disability Discrimination Act, the experience of the last 25 years shows that laws on their own aren’t enough. The political will to enforce them is crucial. Right now, disabled people feel that we’re going backwards. That’s why we really need the PM to keep his promise of a transformative strategy and drive change from the front.”

Research and analysis for the Report has been led by the influential think tank, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ).

Andy Cook, Chief Executive of the CSJ, says, “If we are to truly level-up, we need to be much bolder in our approach towards disabled people. Disabled people face too many unnecessary barriers in society. There is an opportunity now to empower disabled people into full and active participation within all aspects of society. I encourage the government to look closely at this report’s findings."



Dear Prime Minister,

We welcome your promise to publish the most ambitious disability plan in a generation. You say there should be no barriers to anyone realising their full potential. We agree.

As the first test of your levelling up agenda, the National Strategy for Disabled People could not be more important. In the next few days, the CSJ Disability Commission is publishing a set of truly transformative policy proposals for education, housing, transport, access to goods and services and, crucially, employment.

Equality of opportunity to succeed at work is key to progress. Tried and tested change, such as gender pay gap reporting for big business, is already transforming the conversation in the boardroom. At its heart is this simple truth: unless we harness the talent of people with lived experience of disability and ensure they are driving and leading the conversation, from shopfloor to senior management, the conversation will never change, and the barriers will remain.

Disabled people have waited long enough; now is the time for action. We urge you to show in your Disability Strategy that the Commission’s proposals have been given the careful consideration they deserve. If you do, we stand ready to play our part.

Yours sincerely,

Kevin, Lord Shinkwin, Commission Chair

David Forbes-Nixon, Commission Deputy Chair, Chair of DFN Foundation and DFN Project SEARCH

Nick Read, CEO, the Post Office

Peter Harrison, CEO, Schroders

Matthew Layton, Global Managing Partner, Clifford Chance

Hanneke Smits, CEO, BNY Mellon Investment Management

Jeff Dodds, COO, Virgin Media

John Roberts, Founder and CEO, AO

Steve Ingham, CEO, PageGroup

Larry Sullivan, Chairman, COINS

Manoj Badale OBE, Co-Founder, Blenheim Chalcot

Charles Mindenhall, Co-Founder, Blenheim Chalcot

Mark Creighton, CEO, Avado

Vic Darvey, CEO, Purplebricks

Paul Polman, Chairman, Valuable 500 and Chairman and Co-Founder, Imagine

Caroline Casey , Founder, Valuable 500

Ruby, Baroness McGregor-Smith CBE - President, British Chambers of Commerce

Helena, Baroness Morrissey DBE - Chair, Diversity Project

Fleur Bothwick OBE, Director of Diversity & Inclusive Leadership | EY – EMEIA (Europe, Middle East, India and Africa)

Tiernan Brady, Global Director of Inclusion | Clifford Chance LLP

Helen Cooke, CEO, MyPlus

Helen Dolphin MBE, Independent Mobility Consultant

Tanni, Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE, DL

Rt Hon Mark Harper MP, former Minister for Disabled People

Professor Kim Hoque, Professor of Human Resource Management | Warwick Business School

James Lee, Consultant, City Bridge Trust

Diane Lightfoot, CEO | Business Disability Forum


The Disability Commission is an independent body backed by the Centre For Social Justice. It’s report, “Now is the Time”, makes five key recommendations to reduce the disability employment gap:

  • Increasing supported routes into employment - high quality supported internships that involve job coaches and learning support have been proven to be highly effective in supporting individuals with the lowest employment rates into work. The Commission makes a series of recommendations focused on increasing the quality, supply, and awareness of supported internships.
  • Introducing mandatory workforce reporting – The Government acknowledges the benefits of transparent reporting, stating in the introduction to the framework for Voluntary reporting on disability, mental health and wellbeing, which it introduced in November 2018 to encourage employers to report the prevalence of disabled people in their workforce, that ‘transparency is a vital first step towards harnessing the power of a diverse workforce’. The Commission calls on the Government to realise the full benefits of workplace reporting by requiring all employers with 250+ employees to report the proportion of their workforce that is disabled. It also calls on the Government to extend gender pay gap reporting to disability, which will enable firms to monitor whether disabled people are being given equal access to better paying, more senior roles.
  • Leveraging Government procurement – the Government spends £292 billion per year buying goods and services from external suppliers. The Commission recommends recent reforms to the Public Sector (Social Value) Act are extended to require all large public sector contract award decisions to take tendering organisations’ disability employment records into account, and to require organisations with public contracts to work towards increasing the proportion of disabled people within their workforce.
  • Reforming the Government’s Disability Confident scheme – to ensure all employers at the scheme’s higher levels (level 2 ‘employers’, and level 3 ‘committed’) have above a minimum percentage threshold of disabled people within their workforce.
  • Reforming the Government’s Access to Work scheme – introduced in 1994, this provides funding for the adjustments disabled people need to perform their role, and to enable them to get to and from work. This has transformed many disabled people’s employment opportunities, but problems with the scheme remain, not least that too few employers and disabled people are aware of it. As such, the Commission recommends an extensive awareness raising campaign; reducing administrative burdens and delays within the application process; the passporting of adaptations between organisations; and, importantly removing the annual funding cap.


The CSJ is proud to have supported the commission with secretariat and analysis. The recommendations in this report are the independent views of the commissioners and should not be attributed to other businesses, organisations or bodies with whom they are associated.

Established in 2004, the Centre for Social Justice is an independent think-tank that studies the root causes of Britain’s social problems and addresses them by recommending practical, workable policy interventions. The CSJ’s vision is to give people in the UK who are experiencing the worst multiple disadvantages and injustice every possible opportunity to reach their full potential.

The majority of the CSJ’s work is organised around five ‘pathways to poverty’, first identified in our ground-breaking 2007 report Breakthrough Britain. These are: educational failure; family breakdown; economic dependency and worklessness; addiction to drugs and alcohol; and severe personal debt.

Since its inception, the CSJ has changed the landscape of the UK’s political discourse by putting social justice at the heart of British politics. This has led to a transformation in government thinking and policy. For instance, the CSJ report It Happens Here shone a light on the horrific reality of human trafficking and modern slavery in the UK. As a direct result of this report, the Government passed the Modern Slavery Act 2015, one of the first pieces of legislation in the world to address slavery and trafficking in the 21st century.

Its research is informed by experts including prominent academics, practitioners and policymakers. It also draws upon its CSJ Alliance, a unique group of charities, social enterprises and other grass-roots organisations that have a proven track-record of reversing social breakdown across the UK.

The social challenges facing Britain remain serious. In 2021 and beyond, the CSJ will continue to advance the cause of social justice so that more people can continue to fulfil their potential.


Commission Chair, Lord Shinkwin, will be giving evidence to the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee as part of its inquiry on the disability employment gap on 24th March (0930 am, panel 1).

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