I led a debate today in Parliament arguing that groups such Mustard Seed Charity (Helston), Manna's Diner (Penzance), Rebuild South West (Helston), Helston and the Lizard Works and Cornwall People First, are well placed to help the Government in its quest to remove barriers that prevent people with disabilities from enjoying good access to good jobs.
More information can be found at: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=2016-07-05a.223.0&s=speaker%3A25440+section%3Awestminhall#g248.2
The Government has launched a Disability Confident campaign, which aims to:
- challenge attitudes towards disability, and increase understanding;
- remove barriers to employment for disabled people and those with long term health conditions; and
- ensure that disabled people have the opportunities to fulfil their potential and realise their aspirations.
In my speech I sought to demonstrate that the Government's work would be made easier by commissioning community organisations such as those I mention above.
These organisations (and many more like them) have three things in common.
- They are brilliant at what they do,
- they are well placed to develop this work further
- they are strapped for cash.
The Government is developing its Green Paper, that will set out how people with disabilities will be supported in work in the future. I am asking that the Government recognises that these groups are well placed to support people as they prepare for work, support people as they find work and support them in work. The budget for this work exceeds £300 million to be spent during the remainder of this Parliament.
If we get this right, we can transform so many peoples' lives and I am excited about this opportunity.
As I prepared for this morning's debate I thought back to some of the barriers that I found when supporting people who have learning disabilities. I touch on them very briefly, simply to emphasise the contribution that many of the community groups that are already on the ground can make and that they are ready to act.
I found that the transition from school to work for people who have learning disabilities had its particular challenges. Community-based organisations could be funded to work with schools and colleges to identify suitable work placements and apprenticeship opportunities, and support the youngsters in this transition period.
It is obvious to say that different people have different hopes and aspirations: I found this to be equally true of people with learning disabilities and/or autism as it is of everyone else. Community-based organisations can help to develop a creative flexible approach to employment and occupation to achieve optimum positive outcomes.
I found that families of vulnerable people were understandably anxious about how their loved ones would cope in the world of work. The organisations I am familiar with are not seen as part of the system and have the trust of the families. This helps to overcome a very real barrier to meaningful employment for those who otherwise can find themselves on seemingly endless day placements and endless college courses.
Whilst willing, I found employers would be nervous about whether a candidate had the skills and support network needed to work in often busy workplaces. Community-based organisations can build trust with businesses owners and have the connections to help to equip prospective employees with the skills and confidence they need.
Over recent decades, people with disabilities have made huge progress in the workplace, and more are now in work than ever before. However, despite wanting to work and often having the right skills and experience, many people still face significant barriers to accessing employment. I have focused in particular on people who have learning disabilities, but this is true for all people who have a form of disability.
Leonard Cheshire Disability say this:
"We believe that disabled people should have the freedom to live their lives the way they choose, with the opportunity and support to live independently, contribute economically and participate fully in society."
I completely agree.
Over the years, Choughs Training Project (now Manna's Diner) has supported large numbers of local people to gain confidence, learn everyday life skills, and work within the catering and hospitality sector.
Mustard Seed Charity supports people who have learning disabilities to grow in confidence and experience and develop skills that helped them become more independent. Furthermore, their work helps to chip away at some of the perceptions that can exist in our society towards people who have learning disabilities.
Cornwall People First support people to speak up for themselves and help people to live full lives. I have watched them at work. Rather than doing things for our most vulnerable citizens, they stand alongside them and enable them to rise to the challenge, whatever it may be.
Rebuild South West is a unique Community Interest Company run by ex-military personnel, working to restore lives whilst rebuilding properties.
Helston and the Lizard Works, through a unique back to work business and community based project, have shown that, with the correct support, people can overcome enormous obstacles and take control of their own futures. They recognise that being jobless is not just an individual’s problem, but is a business and community issue and can be helped by a business and community solution.