A partnership between UnLtd and Scope is offering funding and support for social entrepreneurs with bold ideas to get more disabled people into jobs and training

Disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people, and only one in every 16 people with a learning disability is in paid employment.

Now, funding and expert support is available through a partnership between UnLtd and Scope for social entrepreneurs to start and grow their ideas, projects or ventures.

The programme, which began for the first time in 2018 and now returns for a second phase, invites applications from people with business ideas that seek to improve employment or employability outcomes for disabled people. Expressions of interest are open now and submissions must be received by 19 July 2019.

The statistics on the disability employment gap (the difference in employment rate of disabled and non-disabled people) are eye-opening, with disabled people twice as likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people, a figure that has stayed at around 30 per cent for the last ten years.

Last year 17 social entrepreneurs were awarded funding awards on the programme, including:

The Wood Pile CIC, a community interest company that reuses and recycles waste wood, turning it into a range of products that are sold online and from their premises in Durham. It provides employment and training for people with a range of disabilities, and helps people to develop skills such as woodwork, joinery, marketing and administration. In the last four years the business has worked with more than 160 disabled people intensively, with a total of 900 people taking part in activities and courses. The funding award has allowed owner Karen Stubbings to provide more jobs and more training opportunities.

BearHugs, an award-winning social venture based in Sheffield that creates bespoke gift hampers. It provides employment opportunities for people with long-term health conditions and is led by Faye Savory. She was inspired to set up the venture by her own experiences of trying to find suitable work when living with a long-term health condition. After selling 14,000 hampers in the first two years of trading, funding has allowed Faye to create more employment opportunities and cope with increased demand for her products.

Lisa Quinlan-Rahman, Executive Director at disability equality charity Scope, said: “We’re delighted to launch the second round of this programme. Last year’s cohort was fantastically diverse with eight out of the 17 ventures having had personal experience of disability, making it a positive step for disability equality. We look forward to the opportunities this year will bring.

“Too often disabled people face barriers in the workplace. Scope’s partnership with UnLtd will demonstrate that social entrepreneurship and investment can be a powerful part of tackling this inequality.”

Nas Morley, Director of Partnerships & Influence at UnLtd, said: “Improving access to meaningful employment is a critical part of creating a fairer society for everyone. We’re thrilled to partner with Scope to support more social entrepreneurs, help them to achieve greater impact and, crucially, tackle the disability employment gap.”

Find out more about UnLtd’s partnership with Scope and the support for early-stage social entrepreneurs: https://www.unltd.org.uk/our-support/our/closing-the-disability-employment-gap