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Minister launches Cornwall Work and Health Beacon Project

A trailblazing project to help businesses recruit and retain people with disabilities and long term health conditions has been formally launched by Sarah Newton, Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work.

The Cornwall Work and Health Beacon Project is the first of its kind in the UK. It aims to widen the pool of talent and experience available to employers, creating opportunities for local people and helping to tackle skills shortages.

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, but research shows that many businesses lack the confidence and knowledge to employ them.

The Cornwall Work and Health Beacon Project was officially launched by Sarah Newton during GrowthFest, a celebration of local business support at the Royal Cornwall Showground.

It is being led by the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) with £465,000 secured from the Government’s Work & Health Unit.

Local MP & Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Sarah Newton said: “Speaking with many employers, they tell me the fear of not being able to offer the right support can often be the biggest barrier when considering opening up their workforce. 

“That’s why the work of the Cornwall Work and Health Beacon Project is so important. It will help businesses become more confident in supporting employees with health conditions and disabilities, to ensure they’re recruiting from the widest pool of talent possible.

 “Cornwall is leading the way with this inclusive employment project, helping the many people with health conditions and disabilities to be able to get into employment and thrive in the workplace. I am determined to ensure that everyone who wants to work has the opportunity to do so. We have set an ambitious target of supporting one million more disabled people into work.”

LEP chair Mark Duddridge added: “Sarah has been a champion of this project from day one and we are delighted to have her support.

“We are now appealing to businesses to get involved because their input will be vital to removing the barriers to employment that we know exist. Our goal is to showcase how working together at a local level can help improve the employment outcomes for everyone in our community, and we will be sharing our findings with other regions of the UK.”

In the coming months 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, a digital hub, 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.

About 83% of people who have a disability or long term health condition acquire it while they are in work, and on average people with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as people without disabilities.

Businesses in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly wanting to find out more about Cornwall Work and Health Beacon Project should visit the Cornwall & Isles Growth Hub website or email beaconproject@cioslep.com

Page last updated: 14:01, 20th September 2018
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