Legislation 'needed now for disabled workers'

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Indy Politics
NEW civil rights legislation was demanded yesterday on behalf of 1.5 million disabled workers who face increasing discrimination.

Based on a survey of the areas covered by Training and Enterprise Councils, the Spastics Society called for a quota system whereby employers are automatically fined if less than 6 per cent of their workforce is disabled.

The report, Wasted Opportunities, said there was an 'enormous' gap between the rhetoric of TECs and the reality. The barriers faced by 16- to 24-year-olds were particularly severe.

It said the councils had failed in their responsibility to ensure high-quality training was made available to disabled people to enable them to compete in the labour market. The situation had got worse because of the recession, the Spastics Society said.

Responsibility for training had been devolved from the Department of Employment to TECs and guidance over the treatment of disabled people was vague.

Because a quarter of the taxpayers' money alloted to the councils was based on 'payment by results', TEC boards often 'creamed off' the trainees who were most likely to gain qualifications. Discrimination was being reinforced by such policies, the society said, adding that funds for training the disabled should be 'ring-fenced'.

The TECs themselves discriminated against minorities of all kinds. Only 11 per cent of 11,000 TEC board directors were women, just 4 per cent were from ethnic minorities, but there was no data for the number who were disabled, the report said.

Brian Lamb, the society's head of campaigns, said: 'TECs have not met the training needs of disabled people, and the gap between the rhetoric of what was supposed to be on offer and the reality is enormous.'