New funding of £1 million to support employers in recruiting disabled people has been announced by the First Minister.
While one in five people in Scotland is disabled they make up only only 11% of the private sector workforce and 11.7% of public sector staff, the Scottish Government said.
Announcing the £1 million funding in Glasgow, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said supporting more disabled people into employment would help them fulfil their potential and benefit society.
The funding will help ensure employers - particularly those in small and medium sized businesses - have access to up to date, accurate advice and support when seeking to recruit disabled people, and will encourage employers to support disabled people through offering work experience, paid internships and more access to Modern Apprenticeships.
Speaking at the Congress on Disability, Employment and the Workplace at the Marriott Hotel, Ms Sturgeon said there seems to be a certain bias against hiring disabled people and that it is vital to tackle these “damaging attitudes”.
She said: “We must recognise that the employment rate for disabled people stands at just around 43% compared to around 80% of the rest of the population, that tells us the scale of the challenge that we must address.
“For some disabled people work is not a possibility and for some it may not be a desirable option and we have a duty to support people who are in that position.
“But we do know that for far too many disabled people the fact they are not in work reflects not their desire or position but reflects the lack of opportunities and the lack of support that they need to get into employment and that is what we must put right.
“On top of that many disabled people are unable to fulfil what they will see as their true potential and they will also miss out on the benefits of work in terms of income, self esteem and independence, the benefits of work the rest of us are able to take for granted, and I think that’s simply unacceptable morally but also for the wider interests of our economy and society.”
Ms Sturgeon said there tends to be more focus on what disabled people can not do rather than what they can and more must be done to change views.
The £1 million funding will also help promote the benefits to employers of recruiting disabled people as part of a more diverse workforce.
The First Minister also announced a consultation on setting public sector bodies targets for employing disabled people.
This will be followed by a Disability Employment Action Plan in autumn 2018 containing measures to support many more disabled people into work.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I do strongly believe that by working together with a very clear goal in mind we can significantly improve the opportunities and support for disabled people and in doing that we can ensure that more disabled people can contribute to and benefit from our country’s success, and in doing that we will help to make Scotland a fairer and more prosperous society.”