Becoming a Disability Confident housing association

Sarah Miller, 29 March 2022

Papworth Trust is a disability charity and registered provider of social housing, whose mission is for disabled people to have equality, choice and independence. We provide a range of services including housing, work, care and leisure opportunities.

Disabled people who we support tell us they want to have the same opportunities as their non-disabled peers which include finding a job and being able to progress with a career in an organisation. 

As part of the National Disability Strategy, the government has plans to rollout workforce reporting on disability for large employers with over 250 employees. As I write this blog, there is a government consultation currently open and we anticipate it will come into force. Is your organisation prepared and ready for this?

The UK still has a long way to go to meet the government’s ambitious goal to see one million more disabled people in work by 2027. The disability employment gap, which is the gap between the employment rates of disabled and non-disabled people, remains high at 28.4%. We all have a role to play to improve this and the best place to start is by reviewing our workforce. When we look inside our organisations, what do we see?

Creating an inclusive social housing sector

The NHF Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) report shows only 8% of the workforce in the housing association sector including staff, executives and Boards indicate they have a disability, compared to 24% of the population, which is such a familiar picture and one that is incredibly frustrating and disappointing.

The report recommends that housing associations review and update their data to address gaps in disability and seek to improve representation at all levels of the organisation. This is particularly important as there are proportionately more disabled people living in social housing than in any other tenure.

If social housing is to be truly reflective of the wider population and their customers then we must work to identify potential barriers for disabled people in the workplace, including reviewing recruitment processes and practices.

Papworth Trust has achieved Disability Confident Leader status and as a commitment to this recognition, we engage with employers to demonstrate the benefits they can gain through employing disabled people.

What is Disability Confident?

Disability Confident is a government scheme designed to encourage employers to recruit and retain disabled people and those with health conditions.

Disability Confident organisations play a leading role in changing attitudes for the better. They’re changing behaviour and cultures in their businesses, networks and communities, and reaping the benefits of inclusive recruitment practices.

It’s creating a movement of change, encouraging employers to think differently about disability and act to improve how they recruit, retain and develop disabled people.

Making our organisations accessible to all opens up our opportunities to work with so many people from diverse backgrounds, many of whom have had to overcome challenges all their lives. As one of my team members said regarding his disability, “I’ve spent my life solving problems” what great experience and expertise to help our residents across social housing and those around us.

Disability statistics

Here are some statistics:

  • 83% of disabled people acquire their disability whilst in work.
  • One in five of us has a disability in England and Wales.
  • One in three disabled people won’t discuss a long term condition with an employer for fear of reprisals such as losing their job (or not getting the job in the first place).

These statistics present the stark reality of living with a disability and it’s clear to see why many people with hidden disabilities often struggle in silence without support and prefer not to talk about their disability.

We are really keen through championing Disability Confident that employers, their workforce and their recruitment campaigns recognise the benefit of employing disabled people and supporting them to flourish in the workplace.

There are so many misconceptions about employing disabled people which we are really keen to break down. They do not have more time off sick and there is an Access to Work funding available from the Government with funding up to £60,000 per annum for support or equipment. If organisations make their environment accessible they are future proofing their ability to retain their workforce.

We talk about EDI which sits at the heart of being an inclusive employer bringing many additional benefits and giving employers the opportunity to tap into a huge resource of people who want to work.

In the UK there are approximately 7200 large employers (those with more than 250 employees) and only 3,377 employers have signed up to the Disability Confident scheme, that’s less than 50%. While only 133 employers in England have ‘Leader’ status which is the only status that isn’t self-assessed. It’s important to note the scheme is entirely free for organisations at Level One and Two and Papworth Trust is willing to help take your organisation on that journey, again free of charge.

At Papworth Trust we champion Disability Confident and continuously challenge ourselves to make every effort to be an inclusive employer, we still have work to do and I’m sure we always will. Listening and learning are both at the heart of improving.