Posted on: 23rd March 2021.

The Disability Commission has today (March 23rd) published “Now Is The Time”, its ground-breaking new report showing how the Prime Minister can keep his promise and deliver a truly transformative strategy to greatly improve the employment prospects of disabled people.

Currently, just 52 per cent of disabled people (and only 5.6 per cent of those with a learning disability) are in employment compared with 81 per cent of non-disabled people.

The report makes several key recommendations ahead of the publication of the Prime Minister’s much-anticipated National Strategy for Disabled People.

Lord Shinkwin, Commission Chair, said: “We have a once in a generation opportunity to improve the life chances of disabled people – we really hope the Prime Minister will consider our recommendations and adopt them in his National Strategy for Disabled People.”

A ground-breaking new report has today (March 23rd) been launched which aims at vastly improving the employment prospects of disabled people throughout the UK.

According to the ONS, disabled people across the UK have been hit particularly hard by Coronavirus, including by a further widening of the disability employment gap, and that is why concerted action by Government and business is crucial. Currently, just 52 per cent of disabled people are in employment compared with 81 per cent of non-disabled people.

The report published by the CSJ Disability Commission makes five key recommendations to vastly improve the employment prospects of disabled people throughout the UK.

The recommendations, which would help reduce the disability employment gap, include:

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

The 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, academic, disability and parliamentary worlds.

Lord Shinkwin says, “The CSJ Disability Commission believes its recommendations will go a long way to removing the barriers disabled people face, and as such will enhance their independence, financial stability, social inclusion, and wellbeing. We really hope the Prime Minister takes them on board and delivers on his promise of a truly transformative National Strategy for 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.

Lord Shinkwin adds: “The launch of the Prime Minister’s National Strategy for Disabled People should mark an important milestone as the country recovers from the economic and social pain caused by the pandemic, which has disproportionately affected disabled people’s income, health, and employment prospects. The Commission believes that central to the Prime Minister’s strategy should be robust policies to ensure equality of opportunity in employment and to support the ability of disabled people to live independently”.

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, said: “Having a disabled son has opened up my eyes to the inequalities in education, employment and life chances for disabled people in the UK. Now is the time for action and driving real change in delivering a fairer society for all. We can’t miss this opportunity and 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.”

To coincide with the publication of the report, business leaders earlier this week 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 urged Boris Johnson deliver the most ambitious disability plan in a generation and consider the Disability Commission’s ground-breaking report.

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

Research and analysis for the Report has been led by the influential think tank, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ). The latest data reveals that disabled people have suffered disproportionately in the pandemic – in physical health, mental health, and economically – compared to non-disabled people. ONS figures show that death rates among disabled people in the pandemic are at least twice those of non-disabled people.

You can view the full report here https://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/library/now-is-the-time-a-report-by-the-csj-disability-commission.



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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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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