SWM supports campaign to highlight talent in disabled workers

MANY businesses in North Devon are unaware of the benefits people who live with disabilities can bring to their companies. That's the message of a new campaign which aims to encourage businesses to recognise the skills of disabled people.

Disability Confident was officially launched in North Devon on 10th March during the annual Open For Business event at Ilfracombe's Landmark Theatre. The occasion was marked with a visit from Justin Tomlinson MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for disabled people, who was joined by North Devon MP Peter Heaton-Jones. Speaking at the event, Mr Tomlinson said: "The key thing is employment is not just good for the individual but it's good for the business as well. "There is a huge wealth of talent out there and there are a large number of organisations just do not recognise this. "That is why Disability Confidence campaign events like this are so important." Mr Heaton-Jones added: "I was determined that we would bring Justin in to North Devon to talk to businesses about the campaign and the opportunities available. "This is all about making sure that businesses know there's support available." During the event representatives from the Department for Work and Pensions were on hand to provide advice about what support is available for businesses looking to take on people with disabilities.

Representatives from Lampard Community School, which caters for pupils with additional needs, were also at the event with a group of students to showcase their talents. Headteacher Karen Rogers said she believed the campaign was an exciting opportunity which helped to open the eyes of both her students and members of the business community.

"What we really want to do is to give our youngsters choices," she said. "For children with learning difficulties in North Devon choices are limited. A lot go on to further education but some want to go in to work. "We want to support employers to make that happen."

One employer which has thrown its weight behind the campaign is South West Metals, which is home to nearly a dozen employees with various disabilities. Operations director, Martin Mogford, called on other businesses to "dive into" the "massive talent pool" that's available – stating they were "some of the best employees" he had. The campaign is also supported by North Devon+, Petroc, Pluss, St Loyes Foundation and Westward Pathfinder. To find out more, visit www.gov.uk/government/collections/disability-confident-campaign