local government

Raising Standards of Disability Services Across the Public Sector

local government

08:45 - 15:50

Wednesday 13 February 2019

Central London

This Forum is an opportunity for employers and service providers to improve their services and make the UK a better place for the 13.9 million disabled people living in the UK to live and work. Participants will engage with policy-makers and prominent figures from across the public sector, and encounter a range of best practice case studies to identify the latest challenges, obligations and solutions surrounding employment, accessibility and inclusivity for those living with a disability in the UK.


This Forum is designed for Sector Leaders in Local and Central Government, as well as the wider Public Sector. Typical job titles include:

  • Diversity and Inclusion Manager
  • Head of Disability Services
  • Disability Support Officer
  • Directors of HR
  • Heads of Organisational Development
  • HR Advisors
  • Head of Employment and Skills
  • Supported Employment Manager
  • Head of People
  • Head of Support Services
  • Accessibility Manager
  • Disability Advisor
  • Inclusivity Manager

This Forum is also open to the Voluntary and Private Sectors to encourage networking and debate.

Key Speakers Confirmed:
  • Dr Karen Jochelson, Head, Office for Disability Issues, DWP
  • Loraine Martins MBE, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Network Rail
  • Diane Lightfoot, Chief Executive Officer, Business Disability Forum
  • Dr Lisa Cameron MP, Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group for Disability
View the agenda and additional speakers


Registration, Refreshments and Networking


Chair's Welcome Address

Liz Sayce OBE, JRF Practitioner Fellow, International Inequalities Institute, London School of Economics (LSE) (invited)


Morning Keynote: Understanding the Current UK Disability Services Landscape

  • Outlining the current landscape of disability services across the UK, including the funding pressures faced by local authorities
  • Highlighting the work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Disability in supporting local authorities and raising awareness of disability issues
  • Understanding the importance of local authorities working together to share knowledge and implement employment and social inclusion strategies
  • Examining the current challenges faced by local authorities and next steps needed to ensure these barriers are effectively tackled
  • Establishing the need to improve staff training to provide better customer services and meet customers’ needs across all transport services

Dr Lisa Cameron MP, Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group for Disability (APPGD) (CONFIRMED)


Special Keynote: Addressing the Disability Employment Gap; Supporting Disabled People into Work

  • Detailing government action intended to support one million more disabled people into work by 2027
  • Discussing the progress of proposals set out in the Improving lives: the future of work, health and disability white paper, published in December 2017
  • Supporting employers to improve recruitment, retention and development of disabled workers through the ‘Disability Confident’ scheme, which organisations can sign up to in order to access advice and recruit from a wider pool of talent
  • Expanding the ‘Access to Work’ scheme through increased funding to support businesses that provide extra employment assistance for disabled people with the greatest barriers to work
  • Evaluating the impact of initiatives such as the ‘Fit for Work’ service, which offers advice supporting individuals to manage their health condition and facilitate a faster return to work from sickness absence

Karen Jochelson, Head of the Office for Disability Issues, Department for Work and Pensions (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Refreshments and Networking


Case Study: Working in Partnership to Provide Effective Employment Support Services

  • Outlining the role and remit of the council’s ‘Enable’ service, which helps people with disabilities into work through a range of initiatives:
  • Working closely with job-seekers and employers to provide individual support, including giving careers advice, writing CVs and conducting mock interviews
  • Identifying job opportunities and matching them with suitably-skilled candidates, resulting in longer-term employment and no recruitment costs
  • Providing job coaches who offer time-unlimited in-work support for both the employee and the employer
  • Considering the importance of working in partnership with the City of Wolverhampton Council to deliver a dedicated service and ensure buy-in from local employers

Winners of the ‘Breaking Down Barriers Award’ at the Learning Disabilities & Autism Awards (England & Scotland) 2018

Vicki Williams, Senior Business Development Officer and Head of Enable Wolverhampton, Shropshire Council and Michelle Spruce, Community Support Manager, City of Wolverhampton Council (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Championing Disability Rights and Understanding the Legal Obligations for Employers

  • Outlining the key obligations and considerations for employers under the Equality Act 2010 and other relevant legislation
  • Detailing the implications of failing to respond to a complaint or make reasonable adjustments, including the penalties and reputational impact
  • Discussing ways of updating and improving your organisation’s Diversity and Inclusion programme
  • Combating direct and indirect discrimination in the application, recruitment and returning to work processes

Michael Paul Gibson, Head of Advice & Operations, Disability Rights UK (invited)


Questions and Answers Session


Lunch and Networking


Afternoon Keynote: Improving Access and Inclusivity Across the UK Rail Network

  • Sharing how Network Rail is working to deliver a more inclusive and accessible service to customers in line with the government’s Inclusive Transport Strategy, launched in July 2018
  • Outlining the progress made through their Spaces and Places for Everyone strategy, which was launched in July 2016
  • Establishing a Built Environment Accessibility Panel (BEAP) to assist in the planning of building works and station design
  • Discussing the improvements made through the ‘Access for All’ programme since being launched in 2006, including automatic lifts, ramps and footbridges with lower handrails and accessible waiting rooms and toilets
  • Updating on plans to begin work in April 2019 on the stations which were deferred in 2015 following Sir Peter Hendy’s review of Network Rail’s investment programme
  • Detailing how further investment of up to £300m being made available to extend the programme until at least 2024 will be used to deliver accessible routes

Loraine Martins MBE, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Network Rail (CONFIRMED)


Panel Discussion: Making Transport Services Accessible For All

Loraine Martins MBE, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Network Rail (CONFIRMED)

Faryal Velmi, Director, Transport for All (invited)

Victoria Garcia, Accessibility and Communities Manager, Brighton & Hove Buses (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Refreshments and Networking


Case Study: Working in Partnership With Employers to Deliver Disability Confident Workplaces

  • Working in partnership with the DWP on the Disability Confident accreditation scheme that tells people that an employer is serious about equal opportunities
  • Launching a campaign called ‘Ready When You Are’ in September 2018 aimed at encouraging employers to recruit more people with a disability
  • Promoting the benefits of the campaign to local employers and directing employers to Job Centre Plus who can offer bespoke, tailored advice and guidance for specific businesses
  • Ensuring the campaign reaches as many employers as possible throughout Devon through a multimedia and film strategy

Sophie Holmes, Commissioning Project Manager, Devon County Council (invited)



Closing Keynote: The Future of Disability Services in the Modern Workplace

  • Evaluating the progress made since the Government launched its 10-year strategy and charting future progress in light of recent funding initiatives
  • Exploring the main challenges facing public sector service providers and how local authorities can focus their spending on the most appropriate employment support
  • Highlighting key areas for improving service provision, such as effective data monitoring, accessible technology, and increasing awareness around non-visible disabilities
  • Developing strategies and initiatives to address workplace inequalities and reduce stigma surrounding disabilities
  • Working to transform low aspirations around whether disabled people can work and challenge poor outcomes becoming acceptable

Diane Lightfoot, Chief Executive Officer, Business Disability Forum (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Chair's Summary and Close

*programme subject to change

According to a poll carried out by Opinium earlier this year for Scope’s report, The Disability Perception Gap, 49% of the 2000 disabled adults surveyed feel excluded by society, whilst just 23% said they felt valued by society. Only 42% believe that the UK is a good place for disabled people. These results demonstrate how much work there is yet to do to make ours an inclusive society where disabled people are given the necessary support to contribute to and be valued by the community.

An estimated 19% of working-age adults in the UK have a disability, according to the latest data published by the Department for Work and Pensions. The 2014 Care Act is clear about the requirement for commissioners to support disabled people to gain and retain work. Despite this, employment levels for disabled people are unacceptably low at 51%, far below the UK average of 75.5%, according to recent figures from the Office for National Statistics.

In October 2018, the Government announced a £4.2 million fund to help tackle the disability employment gap and get more disabled people into work. In the Autumn 2018 Budget, the Chancellor announced that an additional £45 million will be added to the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) in England in 2018-19. This marks the latest in a range of Government initiatives to get 1 million more disabled people into work by 2027, in line with its 10-year strategy.

As well as improving employment opportunities, there is a pressing need to raise standards across transport operators with more than 40% of UK stations not being accessible to physically disabled people.

The Department for Transport launched its Inclusive Transport Strategy in July 2018, which aims to make transport fully accessible for all passengers by 2030 by making up to £300 million available for the transport network to deliver necessary improvements to its infrastructure and facilities.

Creating a more inclusive environment for disabled people needs to be a priority for public service providers and employers. Government funding and interventions will help, but providers must make similar commitments and examine the services they currently offer, taking active measures to increase accessibilityIt is imperative that charities, local councils and the NHS work together in partnership to ensure that the 13.9 million people living with a disability in the UK are able to fulfil their career aspirations, lead full and active lives and feel truly included in British society.

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