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The Apt PSP LogoOn Thursday 26th September 2021, the Apt Public Social Partnership hosted an online celebration event showcasing our successes and achievements so far, which was attended by over one hundred partners and stakeholders from all across Scotland. This event was hosted by our CEO David Cameron and included contributions from many individuals across the sector.

Our first contribution came from Richard Lochhead MSP, the Minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work. He delivered a keynote to the attendees, highlighting the Scottish Government’s Fairer Scotland for Disabled People: Employment Action Plan and aim to half the Disability Employment Gap by 2038, a summary of which can be viewed in the drop-down section below. Following the Minister’s speech, we introduced the PSP in the best way we knew how: by hearing from our partners, who kindly recorded three videos explaining why they joined the PSP, their experiences of the PSP so far and their ideas for the future. All three videos can be viewed in the ‘Hear From Our Partners’ section below.

Individuals with Lived Experience are central to the work of the PSP, so it was incredibly important to centre their voices in our event. We were fortunate to be joined by Dr Danielle Farrel, Managing Director of Your Options Understood and Apt PSP Lived Experience Co-ordinator, and Margaret Barton, Lead Partnership Manager at Fedcap Employment Scotland, who spoke about their past experience of looking for a job or maintaining employment as a disabled person. Jane Hatton, the award-winning social entrepreneur, author and CEO of Evenbreak, also explained just some of the many reasons why employers should recruit disabled people for their workforce through a video interview broadcast at our event, which is available in the drop-down menu below.

So far, our partners have delivered 174 online training sessions to over 1,100 employees from 230 unique organisations.

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Following Jane’s video, we heard from David Stewart, Project Manager of Apt PSP, who highlighted important facts and figures relating to the PSP’s journey. By the day of the event, 46 partner organisations had joined the PSP, with a substantial increase of 27% during the last 3 months. This equates to 96 individuals collaborating across Scotland, constantly offering passion and dedication to the Partnership. This is demonstrated by the fact that from the Workstream and Steering Group meetings alone, our partners have volunteered nearly 1400 hours in the last year. David also emphasised the importance of representing disabled people within all levels of the PSP. Currently, there are 36 people with lived experience involved in the Workstreams, whose contributions are invaluable to our work.

David Stewart also explained how the Apt PSP is delivering services. So far, our partners have delivered 174 online training sessions to over 1,100 employees from 230 unique organisations. As a result, the Apt PSP has coverage across all local authority areas in Scotland, as A map of Scotland demonstrating where the Apt PSP has delivery.demonstrated by this map where each coloured dot represents an area in which we have delivery. In addition, 6 innovative projects have been researched, designed and are now being implemented with 39 employer partners across the Private, Public and Third Sectors. Some early feedback from the Employer Engagement Strategy reveals that 95% of employers want to receive more support from the Apt PSP, implement learning in their workplace and are more confident about subjects associated with employing disabled people. For more information on how to enhance your organisation and/or become an Apt PSP partner, please contact David.Stewart@susescotland.scot.

After hearing from David Stewart, our digital partner See Saw Creative demonstrated the developments in the Apt PSP branding and website, which they were hired to create. See Saw’s video presentation, narrated by Digital Account Manager Lynsey Campbell, allowed us to give The Story So Far attendees an insight into the process of how the Apt PSP has arrived at its current look and how we will use this branding in the future. This video is available in the ‘Apt PSP Branding Showcase’ section below.

What are we doing to reduce the Disability Employment Gap?

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The Story So Far event was an excellent opportunity to hear directly from those involved in these workstreams and projects, demonstrating the steps the Apt PSP is taking to reduce the Disability Employment Gap. Firstly, we heard from Nicola Mulholland from New College Lanarkshire, who spoke about her involvement in the Public Sector workstream and creation of a pilot project which aims to increase the number of disabled people employed in this sector. Following this, our colleague John Brown from Values Into Action Scotland (VIAS) explained why it was important for the PSP to develop an Inclusive Recruitment Framework. John also explained why VIAS was keen to participate in the Attract and Recruit workstream and how this workstream developed their pilot projects. One such project that the Apt PSP will be delivering throughout October is the Digital Recruitment Review, a user-led review of 10 employers’ digital recruitment platforms to determine if they are accessible to disabled jobseekers.

We also heard from some individuals involved with the Retention workstream. Firstly, Emma Soanes, Chief Executive of Unity Enterprise and chair of the Retention workstream, explained the key elements which allow employers to successfully retain disabled employees. In addition, Emma also gave The Story So Far attendees a preview of the Apt PSP’s new social media campaign, which will be launching shortly. Following this, we heard from Lindsay Danks, a Senior Human Resources Advisor from Glenmorangie, who explained why Glenmorangie as an employer was keen to get involved with the PSP and Retention project in particular.

Another workstream represented at The Story So Far was the Under-represented Groups workstream. Some of our trainers who have lived experience spoke about the importance of the training sessions they deliver to employers and employees. Kirin Saeed from Sight Scotland, one of the Apt PSP’s Lived Experience Co-ordinators, explained the importance of involving those with lived experience in training opportunities and how this training can help individuals to find positive and creative ways forward. We then heard from Liam Simpson, a Consultant at VIAS, who spoke about the high unemployment rates for people with learning disabilities and Autism and how training sessions can help organisations and businesses to become confident employers of disabled people. The final workstream discussed at this event was the Transitions workstream. Steven Laidlaw from the Shetland Recreational Trust stated that, as a community operation who needs to embrace the whole community, they were excited to get involved with the PSP and work with partners to find a way to make working in a mainstream organisation accessible to disabled people.

If we are to bridge the Disability Employment Gap in Scotland, opportunities must be created for tens of thousands of disabled people.

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Overall, The Story So Far event was an opportunity to showcase what the Apt PSP has been working on over the last year, which has inspired our future visions. If we are to bridge the Disability Employment Gap in Scotland, opportunities must be created for tens of thousands of disabled people to move into work or retain employment in the coming years. We know that employers want to do the right thing, but that they need our help to make Scotland’s workplaces fully inclusive. Together, we can build on their enthusiasm and create fair work environments through learning, capacity building and change programmes. To do so, we need a Centre of Excellence: a self-sustaining enterprise that serves employers of every size in every part of Scotland. It is our hope that this enterprise will help to create lasting relationships that promote continuous improvement, offer employers accreditation and recognition of their achievements, and serve as a marketplace for training, consultancy and support. At the heart of the Centre of Excellence will be disabled people, delivering training, building relationships and working in management roles.

For more information about The Story So Far event, check out the drop-down sections below. You can also click on the download link to access the PowerPoint slides used at the event. If you are curious to learn more about the Apt PSP, you can sign up for the Apt monthly bulletin by scrolling to the bottom of the Apt Homepage.

Richard Lochhead MSP, the Minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work, attended The Story So Far event and delivered a speech to our attendees.

 

A photo of Richard Locchead, the MSP for Moray and the Minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair WorkThe Minister began his speech by thanking all the members of the Partnership for their efforts over the last year, recognising the high level of commitment involved. Every member, whether a delivery partner or not, has volunteered their time to ensure that the pilot projects are as good as can be and, ultimately, that disabled people can benefit from employers that are better able to attract, recruit and retain their talent.

Following this, he reflected on the journey we have been on in Scotland in respects to disabled people’s equality. When the Scottish Government first launched the “Fairer Scotland for Disabled People: Employment Action Plan” in 2018, the core ambitions were to tackle inequality, deliver inclusive growth and reduce the Disability Employment Gap in Scotland. Such ambitions cannot be delivered alone and the Minister recognised that making Scotland a more equal and prosperous country is the responsibility of everyone, whether we work in Central or Local Governments, Third Sector organisations or the Private Sector.

While there is still work to do, Richard Lochhead praised the significant progress that has been made in recent years, recognising that the Apt PSP has demonstrated how collaboration and co-production can and should be utilised, not only in times of relative economic calm, but also in times of economic uncertainty. Indeed, the Apt PSP partners have continued to work together during the COVID-19 pandemic via online platforms through which pilot projects and training are being delivered. Importantly, each of these pilot projects do not focus on what disabled people themselves can do to become “more employable”. Instead, they illuminate what employers can do to ensure that they are able to take advantage of the skills, talent and drive that exists in Scotland’s disabled community.

As we know, disabled people across Scotland are keen to secure fair and sustainable employment, yet they remain significantly under-represented within Scotland’s workforce. The Minister highlighted that in 2016, when the Scottish Government first made the commitment to reduce the Disability Employment Gap by at least half, the gap itself sat at 37.4 percentage points. It was, and continues to be, a longstanding feature not only of the Scottish Labour Market, but of the wider UK Labour Market too, caused by structural barriers that prevent disabled people from reaching their full potential. Since 2016, Scotland has seen a slow but steady year on year decrease in the Disability Employment Gap, reaching a historic low of 32.6 percentage points in 2019-20 which, importantly, was due to an increase in the employment rate of disabled people and not a decrease in non-disabled employment. While it is necessary to state that emerging data indicates that there has been a small increase in this gap in 2020, in part due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy, we remain on track to hit the target of reducing it by at least half by 2038 and to meet our first interim milestone of achieving a 50% employment rate for disabled people by 2023.

In his closing remarks, Richard Lochhead emphasised that while the Scottish Government is on the right track, behind every “small” increase or decrease in government statistics are individuals whose ambitions and livelihoods are improved or worsened. It was with these individuals in mind that he reaffirmed the Scottish Government’s commitment to reducing the Disability Employment Gap, stating that “it remains our moral responsibility, not to mention an economic necessity, to ensure that disabled people are no longer subject to negative attitudes, low expectations, and discrimination that they so often are subjected to today, whether it be conscious or not”. In the future, the Minister indicated that the Scottish Government will continue to rely on the lived experience of Scotland’s disabled community, as well as the expert advice of Disabled People’s Organisations and relevant third and public sector organisations as they seek to refresh their “A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People: Employment Action Plan”.

To learn more about Richard Lochhead’s work in the Scottish Parliament, click here to access his website.

Jane Hatton, the award-winning social entrepreneur, author and CEO of Evenbreak, kindly recorded a video presentation for us to showcase at The Story So Far event. In this video, Jane explains just some of the many brilliant reasons why employers should recruit disabled people for their workforce.

Jane Hatton’s books, including “A Dozen Great Ways to Recruit Disabled People: Leading Edge Practice on Inclusive and Accessible Recruitment and Selection” and “A Dozen Brilliant Reasons to Employ Disabled People: Why Successful Businesses See Inclusion as an Asset Rather Than a Problem”, are available in paperback, hardback and kindle eBook formats.

Members of our partner organisations helped us to produce three videos for our event about the Public Social Partnership, which you can see below. In the first video, some of our partners explain their reasons for joining the PSP.

In this second video, our partners discuss their experiences since joining the Apt PSP, including the increasing opportunity to connect with each other, share their expertise and work directly with employers across Scotland. Most importantly, our partners have gained invaluable learning on how to reduce the Disability Employment Gap and the many benefits of employing disabled people.

In this final video, the Apt PSP partners speak about what they believe the Apt PSP can achieve and explain their visions of what would make a good outcome for the Partnership in the future.

This video, created by See Saw Creative and narrated by Lynsey Campbell, allowed us to give The Story So Far event attendees an insight into the process of how the Apt PSP has arrived at its current look and how we will use this branding in the future.