§ Mr. John Bercow
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress has been made in meeting targets for the proportion of people with disabilities in senior posts in the Department. 
§ Mr. Blunkett
The Home Office has adopted the corporate civil service target that staff with disabilities should comprise three per cent of the Senior Civil Service (SCS) by 2005. At present the department has no known staff with disabilities at that level but arrangements are in place to support people who have disabilities when they apply for jobs in the Home Office, and to support such staff once appointed in their development and progression. Representation of staff with disabilities has risen at junior and middle management levels and it is hoped that this will feed through into more senior levels including the SCS. The department operates a guaranteed interview scheme for candidates with disabilities applying for external and internal vacancies, provided they meet minimum post requirements. Where necessary reasonable adjustments are made and special equipment provided for staff with disabilities, both at the workplace and in selection and promotion procedures, including selection for the department's Intensive Development and Fast-track Nomination schemes. The Home Office is currently engaged in external recruitment to senior grades and is taking steps to draw this to the attention of disability groups. The department participates in the Cabinet Office Disability Bursary Scheme, designed for staff with potential for early promotion to senior levels, the Cabinet Office summer placement scheme for disabled graduates and the Cabinet Office-chaired Disability Working Group, which is examining ways of raising the representation of people with disabilities in the SCS.
There is evidence, from a Home Office staff survey in 2001, of a significant gap between the numbers of staff who declare disability and the actual position. Against this background, the department is exploring ways of persuading staff of the value of declaring their disability. The department has facilitated and resourced the establishment of the Home Office Disability Support Network (HODS), to provide support and encouragement to staff with disabilities and advice to the department about their needs. The membership of HODS has recently risen to 350.214W
The department is working with HODS to raise awareness and improve understanding of disability issues across the office, and of the potential of disabled staff to rise to senior levels. A number of events and activities are being planned as part of the European Year for Disabled People to raise the profile of disability in the department.