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Cornwall secures £465k funding to help employers access wider pool of talent
The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has secured £465,000 of Government funding to help local businesses recruit and retain people with disabilities and long term health conditions.
The Cornwall Work and Health Beacon Project is the first of its kind in the UK and aims to widen the pool of talent and experience available to employers, creating opportunities for local people and helping to tackle skills shortages.
The project will work with businesses to co-create solutions and build their confidence to employ and retain people with disabilities and long term health conditions, and ensure they have the right support and information available to them.
Mark Duddridge, Chairman of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP said: “We want to remove barriers to employment and address workplace health so that more people with disabilities and long term illness can enter work, return to work, and remain in work.
“We know that businesses can be nervous about hiring someone with a disability but at the same time have trouble finding the skills they need. So we want to change behaviours and build confidence because an inclusive workforce is good for the individual, good for the economy and good for business.”
Truro & Falmouth MP Sarah Newton, Minister of State for Disabled People, Work and Health, added: “The positive links between work and health are well proven and the Government is committed to getting more disabled people into work. The LEP has already done some excellent work in this area and our hope is that this project can be a model for other regions to follow.”
About 83% of people acquire a disability or long term health condition while in work, and on average people with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as people without disabilities. However most people in this category want to work and have a lot to offer potential employers.
In Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly there are almost 50,000 working age people whose day-to-day activities are limited by a long term illness or disability. This is over 15% of the working age population, and well above the national average.
A Government-funded research project carried out by the LEP and the University of Exeter found that many local businesses lacked the confidence and knowledge to employ people with disabilities or long term health conditions.
Now the Government’s Work and Health Unit has approved £465,000 of funding for the LEP to run a two-year project aimed at helping small businesses employ and retain more disabled people, and learn more about the support businesses need.
The LEP will work closely with the business community to examine how businesses make hiring decisions, and promote more inclusive employment practices through education, confidence building, innovative digital tools, and peer-to-peer support.
The project will encourage businesses to learn from one another and share experience and good practice, and will have a dedicated business engagement manager to work directly with local business networks like the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).
Mel Colton-Dyer, Cornwall Chamber of Commerce’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “It is essential for businesses to be able to find the appropriate support to develop a truly diverse workforce. We know that businesses are struggling to recruit the skills they need and find the current availability of information confusing. We are delighted that Cornwall has been chosen as a pilot as an example of how a 21st Century business landscape can operate and include social mobility at the heart of business. We will continue to work closely with the LEP to support the development of employer-friendly, easy to use information which will benefit the whole economy.”
Ann Vandermeulen, the FSB’s Cornwall Development Manager, said: “We know that there is already a lot of good work happening in Cornwall to support small businesses to be inclusive and healthier. This project will connect them with the right support at the right time so they can take on and retain a diverse workforce and reap the benefits that can bring.”
The project will develop a digital platform to provide specialist support, information and advice while capturing information that can inform future activity, such as the size and types of businesses getting involved, and what their needs are. Cornwall will share this learning with other parts of the UK.