Richard Branson backs campaign to support 1m disabled people to get into and stay in work

Will you?

Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group Founder, is backing a partnership to help support one million disabled people into work.

Sir Richard is supporting ‘Work With Me’, a new three-year initiative by Virgin Media and the disability charity, Scope, to understand and tackle the barriers disabled people face getting into and staying in work.

  • Sir Richard Branson is lending his support to Virgin Media and Scope’s ‘Work With Me’ campaign 
  • ‘Work With Me’  is a ground-breaking initiative to support one million disabled people to get into and stay in work
  • Other business leaders are urged to get behind the campaign in order to bring more diversity and a greater skill-set to the workplace 

Virgin Media is funding Scope’s new digital employment support service for disabled people. The partnership ambition is to reach one million disabled people with employment information and support by the end of 2020, so they can get into work, stay in work and realise their career ambitions.

Sir Richard, who has dyslexia, is lending his voice to the campaign which is also inviting members of the public, employers and government to work together to address these issues more quickly.

Sir Richard said: “I’m proud to back Virgin Media and Scope’s ‘Work With Me’ campaign to support one million disabled people with information and advice so they can get in and stay in work.

“I strongly believe looking at the world in a different way to everyone else is a strength that should be praised and encouraged. Don’t define others by what they can’t do, but look for what they can do and support them to do it. 

“That’s why I’m calling on all business leaders to get behind the campaign so disabled people across the UK can have a brighter future.”

Shut out of the jobs market 

Virgin Media and Scope have published new research which has found that disabled people are being “shut out of the jobs market” in huge numbers due to the attitudes and discrimination they can face throughout the recruitment process.

These findings are echoed by latest government figures which show there are one million disabled people in the UK who want to and are able to work but are currently not employed.

An Opinium survey of 2,000 disabled people found that when applying for jobs only half of applications result in an interview, compared with 69 per cent for non-disabled applicants. Disabled people also, on average, apply for 60 per cent more jobs than non-disabled people in their job search (on average eight applications compared with five). 

The research found that more than a third (37 per cent) of disabled people who don’t feel confident about getting a job believe employers won’t hire them because of their impairment or condition.

Employer bias against disabled candidates

The findings show that disabled people who are unemployed and looking for work have lost faith with the recruitment process, as two in five don’t feel confident about their chances of getting a job in the next six months.

Of those, more than a quarter (27 per cent) believe they are less likely to be hired than a non-disabled candidate, while a third (38 per cent) are concerned they will be seen as a “risky” hire because of their condition or impairment.

As a result, more than half of disabled people have applied for jobs they know they are overqualified for, with one in three of those saying they did so because they felt their impairment or condition makes them a less attractive candidate than non-disabled applicants. 

‘Work With Me’:  Supporting disabled people to get into and stay in work

The Virgin Media partnership with Scope is part of its own long term focus on improving inclusion at work and transforming the lives of disadvantaged people through technology.

After working with Scope to look at its workplaces, policies and practices, Virgin Media is taking steps to better understand and transform how it supports disabled employees. This includes the training it gives to managers to support disabled colleagues, as well as access to buildings and practical measures such as reasonable adjustments.

The company has also taken a number of actions to improve the experience of disabled customers, including: increasing training for staff so they can offer appropriate help and support, and ensuring accessibility features are built into all new products and services.

Tom Mockridge, Virgin Media CEO, said: “It’s sensational that Richard is lending his weight to the ‘Work With me’ campaign.

“Disability covers a range of impairments or conditions, and together with Scope, we want to ensure disabled people are given the right support and opportunity to use their skills and fulfil their potential. 

“Follow Richard’s pioneering lead on disability and join us to support more disabled people to get into and stay in work.”

Mark Atkinson, Chief Executive at disability charity Scope, said: “We have a huge amount of work to do to tackle the disability employment gap. At the current pace of change, the Government is set to fail on its pledge to get a million more-disabled people into work.

“Disabled people with all the skills to do the job are being repeatedly passed over for roles, while others are being forced to apply for jobs which they know they are overqualified for.

“Employers are missing out on the talent they badly need because they don’t have the right support in place or because of outdated attitudes towards disability.

“At Scope we want disabled people, colleagues, line managers, employers and others to get behind the Work With Me campaign and work with us to ensure disabled people have an equal opportunity to work.”

Lauren Pitt, 24, from Gloucester, is registered blind after losing most of her sight aged 13 due to a genetic condition.

She said: “When I graduated with a 2.1 degree in theology, I was under the illusion that with a good degree, a strong CV due to all of the volunteering I’d done, and a lot of determination, I would find a job with minimal difficulties. This couldn’t have been further from the truth.

“I applied for over 250 jobs in a variety of roles but I had no response from about half of them.

“I think a lot of recruiters underestimated what I could do because of my impairment. In interviews, I spent most of my time explaining that I could do the job just as well as anyone else.

“Eventually I received an extremely positive email from an employer, inviting me for an interview and asking how they could make it best for me and if my guide dog would need any water.

“After the interview I was offered the job as an administrator for a social enterprise. It just shows how employers’ misguided attitudes can be a real barrier preventing disabled people finding work.”

For more information about ‘Work With Me’ visit www.scope.org.uk/workwithme.

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