October saw my greatly anticipated Disability Confident event held at STEAM museum, and what a response we received! After weeks of preparation, we were delighted that the event was attended by over 100 representatives from over 70 different local businesses and employers. They were there to speak to the 25 different stall holders, all of whom help open up opportunities for disabled people.
The event took the form of a ‘Reverse Jobs Fair’, with employers, not job seekers, attending to discuss their specific recruitment needs with specialist disability work programme providers. The aim was to help create long term job opportunities for disabled job seekers and promote the Disability Confident campaign.
Disability Confident was launched by the Prime Minister in 2013, and has publicly announced the government’s commitment to halve the disability employment gap. So far, we have seen 226,000 disabled people get into work in the past year. This is a great achievement, but we need around 1 million more to find work in order to halve the gap.
My fair was designed to shake up the campaign and introduce a new, creative way of helping to link employers with the recruiters who work alongside disabled people who are looking for employment. I was exceptionally proud to be able to pilot this new approach in North Swindon – one again proving that we are at the forefront of pro-active initiatives!
Both national companies such as McDonalds, Zurich, National Rail, Jurys Inn and Nationwide were in attendance, as well as smaller local businesses. I was determined to get the most out of these important stakeholders which is why they weren’t allowed to leave the room without leaving their contact details, along with a pledge outlining their future contribution to the Disability Confident campaign.
Whilst it’s great to get everybody motivated by such a big event – the real success will lie in the outcomes. Both the DWP and my parliamentary office will be going through these pledges and following up with businesses to ensure that those vital connections with the different organisations are properly forged, ensuring that as many tangible and constructive outcomes follow the event as possible.
I will also be taking forward the successful format of this event and writing to every single one of the remaining 649 Members of Parliament to encourage them to follow suit and host an event in their own constituencies. I want to replicate the ‘Reverse Jobs Fair’ approach across the whole country.
I wanted to thank all of those who supported the event – from the work programme providers, the Department for Work and Pensions, the disability campaigners who attended, to the fantastic Uplands Choir and Music Alive charity for keeping us all entertained. But crucially I wanted to say a big thank you for the businesses for coming along, listening to what more they can do and for making those important pledges!