The Assembly Commission has hired only four disabled people in the last three years

The Assembly Commission has only hired four persons with a registered disability out of 116 who have applied for employment in the past three years, it can be ascertained.

Responsible for the general administration of the Assembly, the job of the Commission is to provide the property, personnel and services necessary for the Assembly to carry out its work.

The figures provided by the UUP MLA to Andy Allen in the form of a written question to the Assembly show that in the last three years the Commission has held 27 job calls and received a total of 1,665 applications.

Of these applications, 116 were from people with a registered disability. Only four of these applications were granted and the person was appointed.

Dermot Devlin, disability rights activist and head of My Way Access, said unfortunately the numbers confirm what he’s heard on the ground over the years.

“Many people with disabilities are applying for various positions in the Assembly, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Northern Ireland Equality Commission,” he said.

“For many years we have been consulting and working on a voluntary basis, but we need to be involved in non-voluntary activities in order for our voices to be heard in a more meaningful way.

“Unfortunately, our real life experience and years of volunteer experience don’t count into the equation.

“People with disabilities bring their wealth of experience, knowledge and determination to influence government to make society more inclusive.”

Mr. Devlin said that, overall, the employment rate for deaf and disabled people in New York State is the lowest in the UK, and the employment gap for people with disabilities is the largest.

“The employment rate here for the deaf and disabled is 38.1% compared to 80.3% for people without disabilities,” he said.

“This is an unacceptable, shameful gap of 42.2%. This contrasts sharply with other parts of these islands. In the UK, the employment rate is well over 50% and the employment gap is 26 percentage points.”

Andy Allen added that while he firmly believes that the most qualified candidate should fill any position, every employer should actively work to remove all possible barriers to employment that people with disabilities face.

“The Northern Ireland Assembly needs to conduct an urgent review to make sure they are taking every possible step to ensure that every position on the Assembly estate is fully accessible to people with the widest range of disabilities,” he said.

“I know that people are often less likely to apply for positions if they live with a disability, as they often fear that the place of work may not suit their availability or personal needs. I applaud the progress made to date in improving this; however, we can do much more.”

The Assembly Commission stated that it is an equal opportunity employer and is committed to the principle that recruitment should be based solely on merit.

“The staff appointment process is fair and consistently applied to ensure equal opportunity for all, including people with disabilities,” said the Commission.

“As part of this, the recruitment and selection process of the Assembly Commission includes a guaranteed interview scheme, which is designed to assist candidates with disabilities who have demonstrated on their application form that they meet the essential criteria for the position to be offered a guaranteed interview.

“The assembly committee is making reasonable adjustments for applicants and workers with disabilities. This is done to ensure that persons with disabilities are not disadvantaged and enjoy equal employment opportunities.”

According to a survey of all Assembly staff back in August last year, 19.5% of those surveyed reported that they had a disability.