Alok Sharma, Member of Parliament for Reading West, today hosted an event aiming to encourage local Reading companies to sign up to become Disability Confident employers.
Disability Confident is a scheme championed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), designed to help employers recruit and retain people with disabilities and health conditions for their skills and talent. Around 10,000 employers across the country are already signed up. Alok worked alongside local jobcentre plus staff to organise the event.
This year, the government is spending over £50 billion, around 2.5% of GDP and over 6% of overall government spending, to support those with disabilities and health conditions. Spending on the main disability benefits – PIP, DLA and Attendance Allowance – will have been £5 billion higher this year than in 2010.
Alok’s event was held at the offices of Bayer Plc at Green Park, which is already a Disability Confident employer, and the company kindly provided the meeting space for the session. The event consisted of presentations from DWP staff about specific government support available to assist employers and employees with disabilities and health conditions, motivational speakers as well as case studies from local employers Total Communication, Thames Water and Microsoft, demonstrating how taking on those with disabilities and health conditions was positive for both employer and employee.
Following the presentations, attendees had the opportunity to speak more informally with employers who have already signed up to Disability Confident, to learn about the steps they have taken and the benefits their businesses have gained as a result of employing experienced and highly qualified people with disabilities and health conditions.
The event also provided guidance about DWP’s Access to Work scheme which provides practical financial support to make the move into work, as well as the workplace itself, more accessible. Access to Work is a grant, worth up to £59,200 a year, which can be used by those with disabilities to provide interpreters, workplace adjustments and assistive technology to help to adjust the workplace. It is a highly flexible source of support, and the Government wants to ensure as many people with disabilities as possible can benefit. DWP also assist those who looking for work, as well as employers, through tailored local support via our Jobcentre Disability Employment Advisers.
Over 60 people attended the event, including representatives from local employers such as Oracle, CGI, BP, Berkeley Homes, Direct Wines, Nokia, Stonewater, Sovereign Homes, Barton Wilmore, Reading Football Club, Talentino, Code Wizards, Thames Valley Berkshire LEP Belinda Knight Solicitors, Harrison Clark Rickerbys, CH and Co. and Clarify. Disability Confident employers in attendance included PLUSS, Shaw Trust, Kennedy Scott and IKEA.
Alok Sharma MP said: “The good news is that with the support of the Government, and employers, almost a million more people with disabilities and health conditions have moved into work over the past five years. And as Employment Minister I want to support even more employers realise the benefits and insight that this huge pool of talented people can bring to the workforce. At the Disability Confident event we heard from some inspirational speakers and both employers and employees who have benefitted from taking part in the scheme. There was a hugely positive atmosphere throughout the event and I hope all the employers who attended will have been motivated to sign up to this brilliant scheme.”
Phil Sharp, Head of Human Resources for the UK and Ireland at Bayer, said: “Bayer is delighted to host this important meeting which we hope will inspire and educate even more employers to participate in the Disability Confident scheme. Today’s important discussion will help highlight the many opportunities and benefits provided by employing disabled people and encourage employers to sign up and create more opportunities in the future. ”
Sarah Gosiewska, HR Change, Inclusion and Engagement Manager at Thames Water, said: “As a Disability Confident Employer, we are delighted to be speaking at this important event, highlighting some of the great initiatives and support we have in place at Thames Water to maximise the talents that people with disabilities contribute. We’re committed to building an inclusive culture and attracting diverse talent to help serve our customers. We have several Disability Champions who help provide support, advice and encouragement to those who have disabilities, helping them on their career journeys, and we also run our award-winning Give Someone a Start scheme to provide an alternative way into work for those seeking opportunities.”