This week, I’m highlighting the brilliant work of local social enterprise, Pluss, and the national Disability Confident Campaign. I’m calling it Disability Confident Week, and encouraging businesses and employers across the city to explore the benefits of becoming Disability Confident, recruiting and employing disabled people because of the valuable skills and talent they can bring to the workforce.
Since 2013, 600 employers have partnered with the Disability Confident scheme across the country. Pluss have been championing this work in Plymouth. They have been working with employers of all shape and sizes, convincing them of the roles disabled staff can play in their company, and helping to recruit, train and support into employment individuals from across the city who have a range of disabilities.
In 2014, the Government launched Disability Confident to help tackle the underemployment of people with disabilities in the UK. The Government is committed to halving the disability employment gap. This means reducing the gap between the employment rates of disabled and non-disabled people. Across the UK, 16% of the workforce either has a disability or a health condition affecting their ability to work. That’s over 6 million people. To halve the employment gap means enabling 1 million people to find and retain employment. This can’t happen without the initiative being taken by employers across the country. And Plymouth is a great place to start.
Becoming Disability Confident is for everyone – public sector, private sector, not-for-profit, education, academia, culture and entertainment. Plymouth has a wealth of employment opportunities in an exciting range of industries. Enabling employers to be disability confident and to see the role they can play in cutting the employment gap is vital to seeing disabled people across the city thriving and succeeding in work. They benefit from the satisfaction of being in work, and their employers benefit from the amazing skills and experiences they bring.
I’ve spoken with several businesses in my constituency who have been working with Pluss for a number of years. Their experience of becoming Disability Confident, and recruiting and retaining staff through Pluss has been outstanding.
One such business is Una Group. Based across the north of the city, Una Group works in commercial property and business services, running a number of business sites which are home to some key local companies. They have been partnering with Pluss for over two years to enable them to recruit employees who might otherwise struggle to get a job because of their disability. They describe how having a received a CV for one of Pluss’ clients, they realised they could offer work to this individual, and began working with Pluss to make it happen. They started the journey and haven’t looked back.
It is always great to see people who need that extra bit of help get started with a job. They always join us with a Job Coach, will then often move forward to be able to do their job without that assistance, and it’s always a great sense of achievement for everyone when that happens.
We liaise closely with PLUSS if we have any concerns or issues and they are always on hand to give us continued support and advice. The support and organisational support provided by PLUSS is outstanding.
David Young Group MD of The Una Group said “We are delighted to be working with PLUSS and their clients in providing work placements from which everyone benefits. I would recommend this type of work experience and community support activity to the wider business community as it so rewarding for all parties.”
Future Inn at Plymouth International Business Park has also become Disability Confident. Since getting involved with Pluss four years ago, they have employed six people with learning difficulties in long term posts across the business. Employing a wide age range of individuals, they speak of the benefit to the whole workforce, those with a disability and those without.
Working with Pluss has been a great success for our hotel. They have enabled us to employ quality candidates who are eager to be part of the team, incredibly hardworking, and who bring something unique to the business. It has been very rewarding to have these outstanding local people come on board.
The process of staff recruitment through Pluss could not be easier. From their initial contact with us, through to the candidates they provide, and then the mentoring and review process they do to support the employee are fantastic. They are a great support to both the employer and employees, and are always at the end of the phone.
We are so grateful that Pluss have introduced us to these employees, and we in turn have been able to offer them a fulfilling job in which they can grow and develop.
One of my constituents, Mel, who Felicity and I first met at the Plymouth Special Olympics, has recently been working at Smyth’s Toy Shop in Plymouth. Pluss worked with her to gain this work experience to bolster her CV and build on the qualifications in childcare she has already gained. I’m hopeful she’ll be so outstanding on her work placement that she gains a permanent position as a result. She’s in her early twenties, is desperate to work, and has been trying unbelievably hard to succeed.
Men and women like Mel are the reason why Disability Confident is something every employer should consider implementing. Only 5% of people with a learning difficulty in Plymouth are in employment. This is in comparison to 74% of all other working age people. We owe it to the 95% of men and women struggling to find work with their disability to help them find fulfilling work, recognising the strong mutual benefits to employers and all employees, not just those with a disability. With organisations like Pluss ready to walk you through the process, there are really few excuses to explore becoming Disability Confident.
On Friday 15th July, Pluss are hosting a Disability Confident networking breakfast for employers across the City. Local employers like those above, who have seen the high value of employing disabled people, will be sharing their stories. Reading about an initiative is one thing, hearing stories from those already making it work takes an idea and turns it into a reality.
If you’re reading this, run a business or head up HR for a company, and have not heard the inspiring stories of businesses who have become disability confident, come along to the National Marine Aquarium on Friday morning at 7.45am.