HL Deb 19 July 1978 vol 395 cc400-17

7 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG rose to ask Her Majesty's Government to take note of the London School of Economics project on employment and the disabled. The noble Baroness said: My Lords, my attention was drawn to this short but nevertheless useful piece of research, and I thought it right when an opportunity for a debate in the form of an unstarred Question became possible to take advantage of it to discuss this important topic of employment and the disabled.

I realise that I put down this Question at very short notice, but I have given the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Coslany, notice of the points I wish to raise, and I hope, therefore, he will be able to give us some answers without too much difficulty. Although I realise it is not always the best way to begin a speech, I should like to add one further apology. My attention has been drawn to the fact that I have not worded my Question correctly, and for the convenience of the House I would say that it should read: To ask Her Majesty's Government to take note of the research on employment and the disabled carried out by students at the London School of Economics". It was only the speed with which the Question was put down that prevented me from making an earlier correction.

In some ways the debate is very timely. The unemployment figures published today are serious, and even though they are made worse by the number of school-leavers suddenly appearing at this time of year they are nevertheless a matter of very great concern to us all. The purpose of this short debate is to consider the problems of the disabled in this situation, particularly in the light of this piece of research. The research itself was twofold: first, to carry out a survey among management and trade unions about their knowledge of the employment of the disabled and their opinions on the employment of the disabled; and, secondly, to carry out a detailed study of case histories of disabled people's experience of employment in selected organisations. As I have already indicated, the research itself was carried out by students at the London School of Economics, under, I think I should say, the auspices of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and I am, of course, very glad that she is able to take part in this debate this afternoon. It was also carried out in conjunction with the Queen Elizabeth Foundation for the Disabled.

I turn first to the background. Your Lordships will doubtless be aware that there is a statutory quota system, dating from the 1944 Act, which imposes on firms employing more than 20 people the obligation to employ at least 3 per cent. of those who are registered as disabled. At the same time there are not enough registered disabled persons to enable all firms in the country to fulfil their quota, and this is a paradox. A statutory requirement is being placed on employers which they cannot all fulfil while at the same time there are those who are seeking work and yet cannot obtain it.

When the quota system was first introduced soon after the Second World War it was effective. Many who were wounded in the war were keen to work and were assisted by the system. Most of these war wounded are now nearing retirement age. For this and for other reasons, the number of people on the register of disabled persons has dropped dramatically. In 1950 they numbered 936,196, but this had dropped in 1961 to 666,454 and to 532,402 in 1977. This decline will continue, and the quota is literally impossible to enforce because of the fall of numbers. But there are other factors. These are, the dislike of some companies to employ disabled persons, the failure of some trade unions to have clear policies on the employment of the disabled, together, in some cases, with the lack of motivation of disabled people towards getting a job at all.

It could be argued that there is no point in having legislation on the Statute Book if it cannot work. Yet at the same time there are those disabled seeking employment who are still out of work, despite the work of disablement resettlement officers and the rehabilitation and resettlement service. Much depends, therefore, on the attitudes of the disabled themselves, on employers and on trade unions. We still know too little about those attitudes, for the statistics of the numbers of registered disabled or of those firms either fulfilling or failing to fulfil their quotas tell us little. It is therefore, I believe, valuable to have some preliminary evidence about the attitudes of all these groups, and this was the purpose of the research exercise and is the purpose of this short debate.

There are probably, using the broadest evidence, over I million disabled persons in the United Kingdom. Yet perhaps only half of that number are registered as disabled. It may well be wrong to label people as disabled just for the sake of bureaucratic convenience. Evidence from the survey shows that most disabled people are anxious to carry on their lives as normally as possible; and in many cases they do not wish to draw attention to their disability by being labelled or by going on the Disablement Register. They often feel that there is a stigma attached to registering as a disabled person which stands in the way of their ready integration into society. Thus, in talking about the quota system and its interpretation we are talking about only approximately one-half of the disabled persons in the United Kingdom.

Even so, attitudes remain broadly favourable on balance to the quota system. From the survey to which I have referred, people seem to think, first, that it gives the disablement resettlement officers access to companies in order to persuade them to employ the disabled; second, that the legislation is a useful back-up and if necessary a threat to make them employ the disabled; and third, that the six monthly returns that companies are obliged to make serve the purpose of periodically reminding companies of their obligations. As one disablement resettlement officer put it, the quota system gives hope to the disabled person and it places an obligation on the employers. But whatever the rights or wrongs of the situation, two things are clear from this survey: first, that the take-up of many sorts of Government help for employing the disabled is lower than it should be; and second, that while publicity may be necessary to correct this situation, it is equally necessary to bring about a change in attitudes among employers and trade unions towards employing the disabled.

The survey reveals that about half the firms written to had no written or clear policy towards the employment of the disabled at all, and that many firms were unaware of the wide-ranging nature of disablement of disabled people and of the services available to help their employment. For example, some of the reasons for not employing disabled people were the need for special facilities, the nature of the premises—which suggests that every disabled person is in a wheelchair—or the nature of the work itself. Further, about half of the companies stated that they had no idea whether or not their trade unions had a policy towards the disabled. It has proved difficult to find out which trade unions do and which do not have policies about the disabled, and it would appear from the research that trade unions have not always been the best advocates of positive policies towards the employment of the disabled. Sadly, one conclusion of the report is: Trade unions have given even less consideration to the formulation of policies than have management". There was some evidence of a lack of knowledge by firms of the facilities provided by the disablement resettlement officers, and an unwillingness to use Government grants and subsidies. A full and detailed study of the DRO system should, I believe, be undertaken to see where communications might be improved, as well as more publicity of the extent and function of the DRO. It seemed to me that that was one of the most important findings of all.

I cannot this evening go into all the details that the research has thrown up. However, I hope very much that by drawing attention to this matter and these findings the Government may feel that it is worth pursuing them further to see whether, in what is obviously a difficult employment situation, there is anything more that we, as a society, could do to help the disabled. I introduce this debate, not in any sense because I wish to be critical about what is happening or wish to provoke a great deal of discussion on various technical points. However, I believe that this is a valuable piece of research. It is something which it would be helpful for the Government to study, and I hope that by drawing it to their attention publicly in this way it may be studied further by both employers and by the trade unions to see whether we cannot get a better deal for the disabled than it would appear that they are always getting at present.

7.11 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to support my noble friend Lady Young in asking this Unstarred Question upon a very important piece of research so recently carried out. It comes a day after the public announcement of the figures of unemployment in the United Kingdom. I understand that yesterday the Department announced that 1,585,811 persons were unemployed on the 6th July, and of those 73,324 were unemployed and registered as such in Northern Ireland. Having so recently taken part in the debate a few minutes ago on the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons (Northern Ireland) Bill, I think that in many respects these two debates hang very closely together. We are considering an important piece of research which has been carried out by two teams. Team A was particularly involved in the management aspects of employment and it contacted no fewer than 22 trade unions and seven DROs who were recently referred to by my noble friend Lady Young. The contact in both cases was of exceptional interest, and I read the Team A report with great care.

I wholeheartedly endorse what my noble friend Lady Young has just said about the need to consider very carefully the role of the disablement resettlement officer. I am sure that such officers fulfil a very important function, and the report brings out that point. But those officers have a varying impact, and one must say that in some cases it has been very beneficial and in others it has not been quite so beneficial. In some cases it has been praised and in others it has, to some extent, been criticised. We would examine the whole matter with care. I am sure that they work in an extremely difficult set of circumstances, and local conditions must inhibit their work. We look upon this piece of research as really the first opportunity of examining what the disablement resettlement officers have been trying to do in recent years.

I also looked at the Team B report, which was specifically concerned with case work. I hope that Team B will not think that this a patronising remark—it is certainly not intended to be—but I believe that their patient and careful questioning has revealed an enormous amount of information about the attitudes of the disabled. My noble friend has already referred to the report itself and, if I am quoting her correctly, she said: Much depends on attitudes—the attitudes of the disabled, of employers and of trade unions". That is really the heart of the matter.

What came across so clearly to me from the Team B report was the very strong desire of all those who were interviewed to find a job—a job that suited them, and one that would enable them to fulfil themselves and to retain that job. They were up against any number of difficulties in that regard. Some were transport difficulties, some employment difficulties and some were difficulties concerned with their particular skills in a particular region. Having read the case histories, I felt that a great deal of hard work was done in research but also that we ought to draw quite specific conclusions. I think that the first conclusion is the answer to the following question: is the disablement resettlement officer given the widest possible brief? Is he or she being asked to fulfil the role he or she ought to be doing in this area?

I notice with very great interest that the companies approached think about the whole disablement problem in different ways. Some of them have no policy at all and feel that it is quite wrong in certain instances to consider a disabled person in a different category from an able-bodied one. That appears on the face of it to strike against the 1944 Act, but that is purely superficial, as I shall explain in a moment. I have spoken to disabled people who do not wish to become registered disabled persons for the very specific reason that they believe that it will not improve their chances to gain employment or retain employment; in fact, it will do exactly the opposite. Of course, the dilemma of so many firms and companies is whether they should treat disabled persons in exactly the same way as other persons or not.

I think that the fact that the system has continued for 34 years in, very approximately, its present form, and has not been amended so far as the green card system is concerned, is a matter which requires public investigation, and this report makes exactly that. Certain of the persons who were interviewed in the Team B discussion said, yes, they thought that the green card system was worth while, and others said that they doubted it. There is a cleavage of opinion on this point. The Government must make up their mind whether to retain the system, to vary the system or to dispose of the system. But, it is very clear from what has taken place in recent years that the Government intend to maintain, very broadly, the present system, and we shall look forward to what the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Coslany, has to tell us in a few minutes.

Companies look upon this particular area in widely different ways for a whole host of reasons and it would be tedious to recite them. all. But there is an area which I believe bears much exploration and that is the knowledge and attitudes of trade unions as regards this particular matter. I referred to the fact that no fewer than 22 trade unions were invited to give their opinion. Certain trade unions—they were not all named—did not have a specific policy on this matter, while others did.

What has come out of this survey so clearly is the wide difference of treatment and of opinion between the bodies concerned. It affects not only the employment area because there is one very important aspect which has not been mentioned to date—namely, the Occupational Pensions Scheme. I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to a Government publication entitled Occu pational Pension Scheme Cover for Disabled Persons which came out in June, 1977. There is one vital paragraph which was quoted in the report, and I believe that it is worth mentioning in the course of our deliberations. In paragraph 6.1 the report says: Our principal conclusions are that the difficulty of finding employment is the greatest obstacle in the way of disabled persons achieving membership of pension schemes. Once this is overcome, restrictions on admission to pension schemes are unlikely to be a significant problem". Because the rules are so complicated, and because so frequently disabled persons have to make a choice between whether to be a registered disabled person or not to be a registered disabled person, whether to consult their friends in this particular field, and whether to consult Government Departments, this is a very real problem. I hope the fact that this report has raised this problem will encourage the Government to look further into this field.

7.21 p.m.

Baroness SEEAR

My Lords, I should very much like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for introducing this Unstarred Question. I was slightly surprised, but very delighted, when she decided to make use of what is a quite good but certainly rather slight piece of investigation which was carried out in a relatively short period of time, though I think the time was well used. I should like to pick up one or two points, elaborating some points which have already been made and asking one or two questions.

It is quite clear—and, of course, this is well-known, quite outside anything which was written up by these two teams—that it is far more difficult for disabled people to get and retain work and that in times of unemployment, as is the case at present, this difficulty becomes very much greater. As both previous speakers have said, the policy and the administrative procedures for dealing with the employment of the disabled have remained very largely unchanged since the 1944 Act. Therefore, although the 1944 Act, and a slight amendment in the 1950s, have undoubtedly achieved a considerable amount, it cannot be said to have coped entirely with the problem. It would, indeed, be surprising if it had. After a period of 34 years it is perhaps appropriate that we should try to think about one or two rather fundamental issues which the failure entirely to beat this problem must raise in our minds.

The policy relies first and foremost on the quota system, on the legal requirement to employ 3 per cent. of disabled persons. But, of course, there are difficulties over this. As the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said, there are not enough people on the Disablement Register—because the quota system is linked with the register—to fill the quotas throughout industry. So there is something slightly absurd in having a legal requirement because if everybody attempted to fulfil the requirements of the law, it could not be done. Straight away this raises certain questions as to whether this is really the appropriate way ultimately of tackling the job.

In the suggestions put forward by the LSE, and in many other quarters, a great deal of emphasis is laid on the importance of having a policy with regard to the employment of disabled people. We have to ask ourselves whether it is sensible to go on relying on the quota system and whether that is really the answer. I am not suggesting that we should abandon the quota system, because I think that to do that would be bad in the sense that people would feel that supports which were given by the existence of a quota system were being removed.

If we were starting from scratch, I do not think that we would have a quota system—I hope that we would not. I think that we know more about this kind of thing now, and if we had not had a 1944 Act, I do not think that I would be in favour of having a quota system at the present time, for a great many reasons which I shall not go into. We have not used quotas in other areas; we do not use quotas in our race legislation or in our women's legislation. However, I am not suggesting that we should get rid of them because to remove a prop is a very different thing from introducing it in the first place.

So, if in fact, we cannot fulfil our obligation entirely and if enforcement—partly because we cannot fulfil our obligation—has been extrememly slight, how shall we get results? There have been a number of prosecutions, and it is sometimes raised in criticism of the Department of Employment, of the DRO, that cases are hardly ever brought; but there are many reasons for this. As both the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, hinted, I believe that the central figure in all this is the DRO. We must remember that, after all, industry's first job is to produce wealth and deliver services; it is not to pick up the jobs that the social services present to it. Industry will not go out of its way to put high priority on the employment of the disabled unless the reasons for so doing are forcefully and effectively drawn to its attention.

What I think is disturbing in the report that we are discussing this evening is the lack of contact in some areas between employers and the DRO. I think that we should be centring all our desire for reform on giving the DRO a much better opportunity to do this job, because being able to be a really effective spokesman, adviser and assistant to both the disabled person and the employer. He has to make the whole issue of the employment of the disabled seem relevant to employers and to show them how it can, in fact, effectively be done.

This raises two very important questions about the role of the DRO—indeed, three. The first, inevitably, is: Are there enough? When we look at the findings of the report—and this corroborates what I have found in other areas of work—we find that the great mass of firms simply do not know about these provisions. They have many other things to read; endless pieces of paper are dropped on their desks. This is not a high priority and I do not have the slightest doubt that a great deal of the literature sent to them goes straight into the waste-paper basket. In the larger organisations, where there are highly organised personnel departments and people who have specific responsibility to deal with these matters, they are picked up and read. But they are a small minority of the total number of employers. The middle and small firms, which are often very good places for the disabled person to work, give this matter a low priority, not because they are hard-hearted, not because they are anti-social, but because this simply is not high in the order of the things with which they have to deal.

Therefore, there needs to be the personal contact of a well-informed DRO who will put the points plainly to these employers. I very much doubt whether the DRO service is staffed sufficiently to carry out this kind of personal contact with the employer on the scale that is required. But that is not all. There is the question of the basic rôle of the DRO. We seem quite unable—and we do this again and again in social legislation—to understand the conflict of role that comes when one and the same person is supposed to be responsible for enforcement of an Act and for establishing relations with an organisation which requires persuasion and competence. The two rôles simply do not marry. One cannot be the enforcing policeman and the persuading, educating person at the same time: at least, one cannot give priority to both. If the DRO is seen as the person who will catch you out because you do not have your 3 per cent., then he will not be seen as the person to whom you look when you want genuine advice or to discuss a real problem about the employment of the disabled. I think this is a real difficulty. We have done it again with the Race Relations Act, and to a certain extent with the Equal Opportunities Commission; the confusion of role which has been involved in combining enforcement and the educative function.

I should like, in the case of the DROs, since it is probably too late to separate these rôles, to put the emphasis strongly on the educative persuading function and to play down the enforcement side. They do not do enforcement anyway, so it is really a nonsense to ruin their persuasive educative rôle for the sake of an activity which in fact they perform to a very small extent. But if they are going to be aiders and advisers of both the disabled and the employers, they really have to be extremely knowledgeable, because this is not a job which is done by taking people who happen to be on a register of the disabled and persuading an employer, at a relatively superficial interview, to find a place where he can put them. It is a quite complex piece of case work to get this marry-up of the person and the job done properly.

I should like to ask the Minister what the training of the DROs is today, how much help they get in carrying out this quite sensitive function which needs a considerable amount of knowledge and skill, and also what the career structure is. As we all know, and it came out again in the report, the function of the DRO, the role of the DRO, is something taken on for a limited period of time by somebody in the Manpower Services Commission and then he or she moves on to other work. I believe that people need to stay for a considerable period of time in this job. They need to see it as a job which will be done, if not for the whole of their career, for a considerable part of it, so that they build up contacts in industry, build up expertise, build up close relations with the hospitals and medical people with whom they have to work. If they are going to be there for only a short period of time, simply a stage in their bureaucratic career, then I do not believe we shall ever get the DROs we need to do the job; and if we do not get the DROs of that kind I do not believe we shall ever solve this problem.

7.32 p.m.


My Lords, first of all may I express my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for giving me a broad outline of her speech notes, which gives me some opportunity to reply to the points, which I hope will be done during my speech. I think I shall cover most of her points and add a few more. It has been a short debate but it is not an unimportant debate. In fact, I would classify it as a very important debate in which I hope that, as my speech progresses, I shall be able to give some positive points on what is being done to meet the situation described by the noble Baronesses, Lady Young and Lady Seear.

I would accept that this debate has drawn, rightly, attention to the problems of disabled people and the ways in which their abilities can be nourished for the benefit of the individual and society as a whole; a point we have to drive home because there is a great deal of lack of understanding. As the Government spokesman, I should like to say that we are grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for drawing the Government's attention to the London School of Economic's project on employment and the disabled, and that, when this has been published, your Lordships can be assured that its findings and proposals will be carefully studied. I would add that, at some difficulty, I have managed to obtain a copy of the two rather bulky volumes at very short notice. I have not had a reasonable opportunity to study them, and in any case I think it would be wrong for me to comment on them at this stage until the report has been published. I can assure the noble Baronesses, Lady Young and Lady Seear, that this will be carefully studied.

I should like at this stage to cover some of the points that are not covered—at least I do not think so—in my notes. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, mentioned the training of DROs. For complete newcomers, from university, for example, it is 35 weeks; that is, at the National DRO Training Centre at Leeds. The other point she raised on this matter I cannot give an immediate answer to, but I will get the information and let her have it.

The noble Lord, Lord Sandys, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, talked about the green card registration system. As I shall indicate later on, the Manpower Services Commission's proposed research for 1978–79 will examine registration in its review of the quota scheme and, what is more important, the views of disabled people will be sought and considered. The noble Lord, Lord Sandy's, raised the question of the unwillingness of people to register. The DRO's job is to help and advise, and most Government facilities for resettlement and rehabilitation are available to all, whether they are registered or not. Perhaps some misapprehension exists that unless you are registered you do not get advantage of the system.

A number of other points were raised. I think I will cover most of them, but if I do not get all the points covered tonight I will certainly see that the information is secured. I need hardly remind your Lordships that the task that confronts us today, at a time of regrettably high unemployment—and I share the concern of the House on this—and of continuing financial constraints is a very difficult one. Although in the longer term the ultimate key to the resettlement of disabled people lies in a successful economic strategy, the Government have, of course, introduced a range of short-term special measures to counter unemployment which should help disabled people along with unemployed people generally, and the Government are most anxious that those who are disabled should have their full share of newly created job opportunities.

Provided with the right sort of support services for their assessment, rehabilitation, training and resettlement, most disabled people can compete on equal terms with other employees. If I may break off from my brief for a moment, may I say that I have vivid recollections of visiting several years ago a certain radio and electronics factory where in point of fact the people most capable of dealing with certain intricate assembly were blind people. They were far more capable than sighted people.

The principle that most disabled people can compete on equal terms has been accepted for many years by successive Governments and is the philosophy behind the resettlement, rehabilitation and training services for those who are disabled, of sheltered workshops for the severely disabled, and the quota system. These provisions are now the responsibility of the Manpower Services Commission which is committed to establishing coherent and unified policies for helping disabled people train for and obtain the right jobs; and to modernising the services to this end. I commend to those of your Lordships who have not seen it the Manpower Services Commission's recent publication, Developing Employment and Training Services for Disabled People. I have a copy here, but for the information of noble Lords a condensed version will shortly be available, and I am making arrangements for it to be available at the Printed Paper Office. The publication sets out its programme for developing employment and training services for all disabled people over the next five to 10 years. The aim of the Programme is to create more, and better, employment opportunities for disabled people, and to provide the necessary support services to enable them to take advantage of these increased opportunities.

The focal point of the services for the resettlement and rehabilitation of disabled people is the Disablement Resettlement Officer, commonly called the DRO. There are over 500 DROs working from job-centres and local employment offices. Their aim is to resettle physically and mentally disabled people into jobs to which their aptitudes and capacities are well suited, and last year they resettled nearly 54,000 disabled people. But the role of the DRO is, above all, to make sure that disabled people are given the extra help and attention which they need at the early resettlement stages in order to be able to compete on equal terms with able-bodied workers. For those who are not ready to start work, for example, after leaving the hospital, or those who need a period of adjustment to adapt themselves gradually to normal working conditions, the DRO can refer to one of the 26 employment rehabilitation centres up and down the country. These centres provide over 2,500 places and about 15,000 people benefit annually from such provision.

It is also encouraging that full use is being made by disabled people of the training facilities provided by the Manpower Services Commission; they train about 5,000 disabled people a year at either one of the special residential training colleges for severely disabled people or along with other trainees in colleges of further education or skill centres. Two recent important innovations which should assist in the placement of disabled people in employment include, first, a scheme under which grants of up to £5,000 can be made to employers who make essential adaptations to enable individual disabled people to be recruited or continue to be employed. It is disappointing that the take-up of grant under the scheme has been very low, but the Manpower Services Commission is giving the scheme greater publicity to make employers more aware of the benefits available.

Secondly, the Job Introduction Scheme, under which employers can be paid £30 a week for a six-week trial period, on a selective basis, to enable a disabled person to demonstrate that he or she can do the job; so far this is proving very successful, with more than four in five disabled people still in jobs one month after the trial period, and consideration is being given to make it more widely available.

This is only to touch on the barest detail. But here as elsewhere the Government the National Advisory Council on Employment of Disabled People and the Menpower Services Commission are far from complacent about the problems of disabled people. Much has already been said in this debate about the importance of changing attitudes among employers and society in general, to ensure that the skills abilities and potential of disabled people are used fully to help them lead satisfying working lives and for the benefit of employers. We fully recognise the existence of such a problem and the need to take positive action to seek to influence attitudes.

The launch just over a year ago by the Manpower Services Commission of Positive Policies—the guide to employing disabled people—represents just such action and is a vital part of the Government's strategy to secure a better deal for all disabled workers. The guide, which was sent to over 55,000 employers, is aimed at promoting a vigorous development of policies covering all aspects of the problem. The guide has its origins in a Government commitment of December 1975 to ask the Manpower Services Commission how to bring home more sharply to employers the need to give jobs to more disabled people. That commitment followed a review of the undoubtedly controversial quota scheme to which noble Lords have referred. The Manpower Services Commission will be looking again at the future and level of the quota in 1979–80 and whether a statutory policy is appropriate in the light of the disinclination of people to register as disabled and the consequent difficulties for employers to satisfy their 3 per cent. quota requirement.

Positive Policies emphasises that it is not only right to give disabled people a fair share of employment opportunities and a chance to use their skills and potential fully, but also that it is in the employer's interests to produce a clear-cut company policy on this. So far there has been an encouraging response from both sides of industry. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, rightly drew attention to the role of trade unions. An understanding of and an interest in fellow workers is an important part of the resettlement of disabled people into employment. It is right that trade unions should be more involved and the Government have been pleased by the response and support given by the TUC and the Scottish and Welsh TUCs to the issue of the guide. We have been particularly delighted by the response to our campaign of certain trade unions who have made encouraging efforts to publicise its message. We hope that employers will take the opportunity to sit down with their union representatives to review existing company policy, and its implementation, on the employment of disabled people in the light of the guide's recommendations.

From the reports received to date, it is satisfying that most employers appear to have accepted four of the six points set out in the guide as part of their company policy. They are: consideration of disabled people for all vacancies; retention of newly disabled employees; equality of opportunity at work; and co-operation with the DRO. Rather fewer employers appear to have incorporated the remaining two points into company policy: modification of equipment or jobs: and adaptation of premises. But I ask your Lordships to understand that the guide is not intended as a nine day wonder—a splash of publicity and then limbo. It marked the beginning of a sustained effort, supported by the TUC and CBI, in which the Manpower Services Commission's managers and DROs are carrying out a phased programme of visits to employers throughout the country with the aim of persuading them to incorporate the guide's principles into company thinking.

To date, some 10,000 visits have been made and a further major national publicity campaign is being planned for next year. The Manpower Services Commission is also in the process of undertaking a research programme—to which the London School of Economics project may be relevant—which will provide information about how employers have set about successfully implementing Positive Policies; and in the near future this will lead to the publication of a booklet for employers, Positive Policies Applied. Further research is also being undertaken with the attitudes of employers towards positive policies, quota and registration. The first aim of all this is to promote a better understanding of the abilities of disabled people among employers, because so much depends upon them, but we are looking beyond employers; we are seeking to bring about a change in the climate of opinion among society in general.

This is a huge task. The Government will play their full share in getting the right message across and thereby achieving a national focus on the employment needs of disabled people. I am sure the authors of the London School of Economics research project—and, like your Lordships, I feel that it is welcoming to find students going into subjects of this nature and carrying out such valuable research work—would want this initiative to be successful. I welcome this debate, and again I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for introducing the subject. I hope that in the not too distant future we shall have an opportunity to discuss at greater length this vital problem, which affects not only the disabled but the country as a whole.

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