That’s where “supported businesses” come in. Supported businesses can provide employment opportunities for those disabled people who want to work but may otherwise fi nd it diffi cult to secure a suitable role because of their additional needs.

Supported businesses aren’t just inclusive employers. These are businesses that go above and beyond to support disabled people with the greatest barriers to work, where over half of their workforce has a disability. Supported businesses offer a range of products and services, from textiles to IT. They operate competitively, just like any other business.

Disabled employees working for supported businesses can benefi t from a range of support, including adapted working practices, additional HR support, job coaches and special aids and adaptations.

You may have heard of our Protected Places scheme, which provides funding for individuals working in a supported business. Although the scheme is coming to an end in March 2019, I’m personally committed to supporting the growth of the supported business sector, which I believe has huge potential.

Over the last year we’ve been working closely with the Supported Business Alliance and the British Association for Supported Employment to ensure the supported business sector can continue to flourish. Together, we want to continue support for those already working for a supported business, and help more disabled people to join them.

We’ve recently announced that, for two years from April 2019, funding will be increased for each disabled person working in a supported business – helping to ensure that disabled people who want to work have the opportunity to enjoy the benefi ts that the right job can bring.

Importantly, the increased payment will not only be available for existing employees but also for businesses to employ even more disabled people, enabling a total of over 2,000 disabled people across England, Scotland and Wales to access support.

Furniture and soft furnishings manufacturer, Royal Strathclyde Blindcraft Industries is one of the largest supported business in Europe, and Linzi Wylie is one of their valued employees. She needed to make a career change after her sight deteriorated. Working for a supported business opened new doors for Linzi, who had never thought about doing manual work. Linzi says her new role has allowed her to develop in a way she thought was beyond her ability.

Stories like Linzi’s demonstrate the value of enabling the supported business sector to thrive – not just for disabled people, but for the wider economy too. It goes to show that, with the right support, people can and should be given the chance to work.