HC Deb 15 December 1999 vol 341 c197W
Mr. Crausby

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what percentage of the total workforce in his Department is registered as disabled; and what steps he is taking to encourage the employment of disabled people in his Department. [102039]

Mr. Mandelson

Following the devolution of power to the Northern Ireland Assembly on 2 December 1999, the Assembly took on responsibility for all the Northern Ireland Civil Service Departments. The Secretary of State's responsibility is now limited to the Northern Ireland Office, and the following information relates to that Department only.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995, which came into force in 1996, removed the requirement for individuals with disabilities to register as disabled and, as a result, such information is no longer held on staff in the Northern Ireland Office. Individuals may, however, provide information regarding their disabilities on a voluntary basis. Statistics based on this information indicate that 4.04 per cent. of staff in the Northern Ireland Office have declared that they have a disability under the Act.

The Northern Ireland Office is an Equal Opportunities employer and has a number of policies in place relating to the recruitment and retention of people with disabilities. Where open recruitment competitions are advertised, disabled people are among those under-represented groups who are encouraged to submit applications. The NIO also sponsors a number of people with disabilities to provide them with work in the Department under the Training and Employment Agency's Employment Support Scheme.

The NIO has a dedicated Disabled Person's Liaison Officer whose role is to provide assistance and advice to staff and managers on what reasonable adjustments can be made to enable staff with disabilities to do their jobs. Consideration is also being given to joining the Positive about Disabled People "Two Ticks" scheme to indicate the NIO' s commitment to people with disabilities.

Since 1997 the Northern Ireland Office has funded a bursary for staff with disabilities. This provides the bursary holder with a two year programme of training and mentoring to enable them to develop the competencies needed to gain promotion. Two members of MO staff are currently benefiting from the scheme.