Scope’s chair Andrew McDonald, once the most senior disabled civil servant, will open up today about his experiences of being told by colleagues to keep his Parkinson’s diagnosis a secret, as disclosing it would end his career.
In his first interview since becoming chair of Scope, McDonald will speak to Sky News about the need for workplaces to be much more open to discussion of illness and disability.
McDonald was chief executive of Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), and was a civil servant for twenty years.
He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2007. His experience saw him take the lead on a wide range of changes to improve support for disabled staff.
He has just received a CB on the New Year's Honours list, in recognition of his services to Parliament and voluntary service to disability awareness.
A blog from Andrew McDonald about joining Scope
Speaking ahead of his interview, Andrew McDonald, Chair of Scope, says:
“When I was first diagnosed with Parkinson's, I wanted to get on with my life. But I also wanted to be open with my team.
But colleagues advised me not to do so – "because you will be labelled as a disabled civil servant and it will end your career".
I was really shocked. I decided I wanted to go ahead all the same because if I didn't, I felt I was making it more difficult for the next person. And if these attitudes persisted in the Civil Service, a relatively liberal and enlightened employer, what were things like elsewhere?”
"That experience left me with the clear conviction that we need to act to make our workplaces more open to discussion of illness and disability.
We need them to be safe and supportive environments in which everybody feels their voice will be heard. And we all - disabled or not - have a responsibility to bring that about."
Disability in the workplace
Scope’s research highlights that much more needs to be done to support disabled people in the workplace, and to improve employer attitudes towards disability.
A staggering three-quarters (74%) of disabled people say that they have lost out on a job opportunity because of negative employer attitudes towards disability.
Of those, nearly half (42%) of disabled people say that it has happened “every time” or “a lot of the time”, that they have applied for a job or attended an interview.
Scope has produced an online guide to support employees to feel more comfortable when interacting with disabled colleagues. The charity has also produced an online guide for businesses looking to take on a disabled employee.
Scope is calling for employers to look into how we can make work places more flexible, welcoming environments where disabled people flourish in their careers.
In its report, A Million Futures, Scope has set out a series of actions for the next government to increase the numbers of disabled people in work, vital to improving disabled people’s living standards over the next five years.
About Andrew McDonald’s appointment as Scope’s chair in October.
Notes to the editor:
For more information, please contact Daniel Mazliah in the Scope press office on 020 7619 7201, 07843 467 948 or firstname.lastname@example.org