Rory Stewart MP – with the help of Jacqui Taylor of Eden Mencap, Sarah Arragon of Arragon’s Cycle Centre in Penrith, and members of the local Department of ​Work and ​Pensions​ (DWP) – has embarked upon a challenge to make employers in Penrith and The Border more inclusive, encouraging them to sign up to the Disability Confident scheme this April which helps employers open up their workforce to disabled people.

The challenge to sign up thirty businesses in April is part of a national campaign run by the DWP to ​support employers to increase the diversity of their workforce and offer opportunities to disabled jobseekers, including work experience, apprenticeships, work trials and employment. Rory has written to dozens of businesses in the constituency as part of the challenge. It follows his efforts to set up a Disability Confident event in Penrith, which he has been planning for some months. ​

Eden Mencap have been preparing several ‘students’ for the workplace and are keen to engage with the Disability Confident campaign. ​

It is hoped that many of the businesses signed up in April will join the event, co-hosted with Eden Mencap and to be held ​in June 2017​.

Rory Stewart said: “Disability Confident is a brilliant initiative that I fully support. Disabled people make up one fifth of the working age population and our local employers could be missing out on a large sector of talent in our community. I know, as the brother of a sister with Downs Syndrome, just how fulfilling for both employee and employer it can be, to have a disabled member on your team.”

“I am grateful for the support of Shane Byrne and Aidan Quigley of the local DWP, and of Jacqui Taylor of Eden Mencap, whose tireless advocacy has been a source of inspiration to me. It is great that local employers such as Sarah Arragon are already behind the initiative. Above all, I hope this will be the start of lots more local employers becoming Disability Confident and improving opportunities for local disabled people to realise their potential in the workplace.”

Jacqui Taylor of Eden Mencap, said: ​”​Eden Mencap are looking forward to working alongside local employers and businesses in Eden to establish opportunities for people with skills and abilities to shine in the workplace. Having a disability should not inhibit the ability to work and take a valuable place in the local community. Working with the employer and each person individually will highlight the abilities needed to effectively meet the needs of the role. People with disabilities are keen to work and to contribute to society; through discussion and mutual understanding, time to settle in and supportive training, a person’s​ disabilities ‘disappear’ as their ability to do the tasks effectively shines​ through.​”​

Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Penny Mordaunt said: “I want to congratulate Rory Stewart MP for taking steps to create more Disability Confident employers, and helping close the disability employment gap . Unless we enable all of our citizens to reach their full potential our nation never will.”

“The scheme not only supports  employers who want know how they can make their organisation more inclusive, but the Disability confident kite mark sends a powerful signal to disabled candidates that if they apply to that firm they can have confidence their needs and concerns will be understood and supported.”

The new Disability Confident sign-up scheme was launched at the end of 2016 and builds on the success of the previous ‘Two Ticks’ scheme. More than 3,700 businesses have signed up to become Disability Confident so far. Local companies, in a list compiled by the DWP, will be contacted by their MP this week regarding the challenge.

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