Success of fair will be in outcomes

Stewart Jackson MP's Westminster Life column in the Peterborough Telegraph -
Stewart Jackson MP's Westminster Life column in the Peterborough Telegraph -
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Last week, I was delighted to do a question and answer session on Radio’s Peterborough’s “Inspiring Peterborough” radio show with host Bryan Tyler. We talked about a wide range of disability-related issues as well as subjects like local transport, health services and sports provision.

It’s hard to believe but as recently as 2011 there were thousands of disabled people in Peterborough who were on long term benefits but who had not been able to access a tailored service to see if they might be fit for and benefit from work. That’s now changed with the Work Programme, apprenticeships and the work of local training providers like City College.

The Government has also recently relaunched the Disability Confident campaign and a number of my Parliamentary colleagues have hosted successful local events to show their support for disabled people in their own constituencies. Events have taken 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 is to help create long term job opportunities for disabled job seekers and promote the campaign.

So what is Disability Confident? In short, it’s a national drive to encourage firms to employ disabled workers.

It was launched by the Prime Minister in 2013, announcing 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. According to government figures, 3.2million disabled people are now in employment but there is still a 30% gap between the UK employment rate of disabled and non-disabled people. We need around 1 million more to find work in order to halve the gap.

Job fairs are 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 and in order to get the right skills to contribute to business success, the best employers need to be picking from the widest possible pool of talent. Employers are just cutting themselves off from talented people if they ignore disabled jobseekers.

Whilst it’s great to get everybody motivated by such big events – the real success will lie in the outcomes.

Early next year, I will be contacting employers big and small in Peterborough to ask them to promote the campaign and to volunteer their time and attend a jobs fair I’ll be hosting with Disabilities Minister Justin Tomlinson MP, in order to open their eyes to the untapped potential of many disabled people.

It’ll be an opportunity in our city to make a real difference for people who want the chance to flourish in the world of work.

Let’s make it happen.