The new Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work will attend a disability employment conference in Newcastle next month.
Sarah Newton succeeded Penny Mordaunt after she was promoted to International Development Secretary following Priti Patel’s resignation earlier this month.
Newton will speak at The Percy Hedley Foundation’s Change Attitudes Now (CAN) Conference, which takes place at the Crowne Plaza on December 1.
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and former chief executive of Disability Rights UK (DRUK), Liz Sayce, will also speak at the event which aims to challenge attitudes towards disability employment.
The Government has set a target to half the disability employment gap, which currently stands at 33 per cent, by 2020, and a key part of this is to increase employment levels amongst disabled people.
Channel 4 television presenter Jordan Jarrett-Bryan is also speaking at the event and he says it is time the Government re-introduced quotas to help but the disability employment gap.
Several EU countries have quota laws regarding employment of disabled people including Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Austria, but the UK abandoned a quota system in 1995, preferring to rely on anti-discrimination legislation.
“Thirty three per cent is not an acceptable number and I don’t understand why in this day and age it’s so high,” Jarrett-Bryan said. “There’s no reason other why it should be this high other than negligence. Why are we failing our young disabled people? We need to address it.
“I do a lot of work on diversity, whether it is equal opportunities for females, ethnic minorities or disabled people and a word that comes up a lot is quotas.
“I’ve never been a fan of quotas but I’m coming round to the idea because I don’t really see an alternative way to reduce the percentage. We have to keep the fight going.
“We can either continue the fight and see incremental changes over the next five, 10, 15 years or we can be bold, make some brave decisions and reintroduce quotas. The only way we will see an improvement is to put a timeframe on it and challenge the Government and employers to bring that number down.”
Next month’s conference has been organised by Percy Hedley’s Employability Service, which supports employers to be disability confident and works to break down the barriers employers envisage to employing disabled people.
Jarrett-Bryan believes more projects like Hedleys Employability Service are needed because employers don’t realise the advantages of employing disabled people.
He said: “I think employers need to realise that young disabled people can be assets. They can be successful and bring money into the company. It’s about looking beyond their disability.
“We need to make a strong business case that our young disabled people have the brains and the talent to be real assets in the workplace.”