The Business Disability Forum has welcomed legislation aimed at increasing skills and training for young people and adults but has called for clarity on how this will convert to long-term job prospects for disabled people.

The UK government pledged to introduce legislation to support its lifetime skills guarantee policy and enable flexible training throughout people’s lives in the Queen’s speech last week, which included one sentence which addressed the topic.

Specifically, the monarch said: “Legislation will support a lifetime skills guarantee to enable flexible access to high quality education and training throughout people’s lives.”

Angela Matthews, Head of Policy at Business Disability Forum, said: “Legislation announced today to increase the skills of young people and adults is to be welcomed, but more needs to be done to address the specific barriers that disabled people experience in both pre and post-16 education.

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“We also heard very little about how the lifetime skills guarantee will convert to lasting job opportunities for disabled people, as businesses continue to deal with the fallout from the pandemic.

“For many disabled people, the barriers to learning begin in primary education and continue through to secondary. These are predominantly due to a lack of adjustments and assistive technology that suit the way that some people learn. Many disabled people have told us they have studied later in life for this reason.

“Further Education colleges are often local with good transport links, and good disability student support. But any post-16 and adult education opportunities need to be inclusive. We know there is a huge issue with inaccessible remote learning platforms, and course materials being in inaccessible formats.

“At the moment, many disabled people are only able to access the technology they need post-16, either when they are in work or in Higher Education. We are calling for the introduction of a ‘Tech for Life’ model. This would allow people to access assistive technology throughout their lives, from primary and secondary education, through to Higher Education and training, and looking for and applying for roles.

“We were also disappointed not to see more on employment, specifically, given the challenges facing many of our Members, as they continue to support their workforces through the pandemic. It is not clear how the Lifetime Skills Guarantee will deliver lifetime careers and job opportunities for disabled people.

“We are waiting to see the role that skills and training will play in the Government’s expected National Disability Strategy and how that, in turn, will help close the disability employment gap. There are still many questions to be answered.”

The Business Disability Forum is a not-for-profit organisation which aims to create a “disability-smart world” by linking businesses, disabled people, and government. During the COVID-19 pandemic the organisation held webinars to inform businesses about how to run accessible and inclusive online events.

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