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It could take seven years for TV to hit its 2021 off-screen disability target – and 20 years to bring the industry in line with the UK’s population, the Creative Diversity Network has warned.

In its Interim Report on Doubling Disability, the CDN said that at the current pace of change, the industry will not grow from the 5.4% figure recorded in January to its 9% target by the end of 2021 – a target already delayed by a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Supporting disabled freelancers early in their career is crucial to addressing the wider crisis of underemployment, the report said.

Options outlined include a scheme between GCSE and higher education to help people enter the industry, and for broadcasters to join forces to offer ‘syndicated sector-wide funding’ to invest in disabled talent and indies run by disabled people, as well as a support structure for mentoring.

The report follows this week’s publication of Channel 4’s six-point action plan, which includes mentoring led by people with disabilities, industry networking, ‘disruptive’ programming and a disabled talent and contributor welfare policy.

More than 80% of respondents said they had faced periods of unemployment in the last five years, and a similar number said poor understanding of disability and discriminatory views among management had limited their career progression.

The CDN also called on broadcasters and indies to identify reasonable adjustments for location shooting and on-set accommodation, and to create industry-wide resources that drive employment, such as PSB channels airing a film that encourages disabled people to work in TV.

One in five people in the UK is registered disabled.

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