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. The statistics are stark, but the good news is that social entrepreneurs are tackling this challenge head-on.

And expert support and funding is now available, through Transforming Employment for Disabled People – a new partnership between UnLtd and Scope. The collaboration is being launched against a background of steadily falling unemployment, but not everyone who wants to work can gain appropriate, meaningful employment.

The statistics on the disability employment gap (the difference in employment rate of disabled and non-disabled people) are eye-opening. This social challenge also represents an economic inefficiency, Scope estimates that even a small rise in the number of disabled people in work could bring billions of pounds into the UK economy.

People with enterprising ideas can change things and truly transform employment for disabled people. That’s why UnLtd is now partnered with Scope for the first time, to support social entrepreneurs across the UK to start and grow their ideas, projects or ventures.

Expressions of interest are now open and submissions must be received before August 1st.

UnLtd-backed Jane Chong and Jane Kippax, both parents to children with Down’s Syndrome, are among the social entrepreneurs already transforming access to employment. Together, they run the Bristol-based bakery Step and Stone which provides employment and training opportunities for young people with learning disabilities.

Jane Kippax said: “We were appalled that only 6% of people with a learning disability are in paid employment and were determined to have an impact on this figure by setting up a project which would provide training and education and progression into meaningful employment.”

The idea began small, involving people with a learning disability in making a lavash flatbread. The food proved to be popular and the idea grew quickly into a business. Before long, Step and Stone were selling to delis and fine food shops across Bristol. The venture received funding and support from UnLtd in November 2017, helping the team to scale both their ambition and social impact. The lack of opportunities for people with learning disabilities has wider effects than just employment. People with learning disabilities can experience social isolation. A big part of Step and Stone’s work goes beyond training technical skills and raising confidence and focuses on creating a community. Regular social outings help build friendships between staff and volunteers.

Flexible working is one way to overcome accessibility issues and barriers. Jane explains: “At Step and Stone we have developed visual recipe cards, which enable our young people to make up batches of dough independently. Once they have been shown how to do a job a few times and have had a few chances to practice under supervision, they always do the task to perfection.”

But the biggest issue is still simply a lack of opportunities. Organisations worry about hiring someone with a learning disability. They shouldn’t be worried. According to Jane: “Once the person with a learning disability is given a chance, they typically make very dedicated and loyal members of staff. From our experience, they often increase the morale of the whole team.”

Setting up a social venture has certainly had its challenges, but Jane is adamant that it’s been worthwhile. She said: “This is, without doubt, the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. However, resilience, persistence and passion are the qualities that have kept us going through the tough patches.”

The venture’s next move is to open a cafe in or near Bristol. This will allow them to offer an even greater range of work experience opportunities and show the public the talents of the young people who work there.

Nas Morley, UnLtd Director of Partnerships & Influence, said: “Improving access to meaningful employment is such an important part of our society becoming fairer and working better – not just for disabled people, but for everyone. Ventures such as Step and Stone are doing wonderful work to tackle this challenge, they clearly prove social entrepreneurs are ideally placed to offer some of the most effective employment results. We’re thrilled to partner with Scope to support more brilliant social entrepreneurs, maximise their impact and, together, tackle the disability employment gap.”

Mark Atkinson, Chief Executive at Scope, said: “Initiatives like Step and Stone are a brilliant example of the huge benefits that disabled workers bring to businesses. Scope’s radical new strategy is about finding innovative ways to make change happen, and our partnership with UnLtd embodies that approach. That’s why together with UnLtd, we’re launching this programme to empower the next generation of social entrepreneurs and transform the job market for disabled people. We look forward to hearing from social entrepreneurs over the coming months.”

Discover more about UnLtd’s partnership with Scope and the support for early stage social entrepreneurs: https://unltd.org.uk/our-support/our/transforming-employment-for-disabled-people

Learn about Step and Stone: http://stepandstone.co/

About UnLtd

UnLtd want to create a future where enterprising people are transforming our world for good.

With social and economic inequality growing in the UK, more people than ever are using innovative and sustainable business solutions to help drive social change.

Whether they are providing jobs, improving the lives of people in later life, or making a positive making a positive impact in the places where they live and work, these social entrepreneurs put social purpose at the heart of what they do, ahead of financial gain.

We think social entrepreneurs make a difference and need our support. UnLtd find, fund, and support them to bring their ideas to life and build sustainable social ventures.

Since 2002, working in partnership, they have supported over 16,500 social entrepreneurs who have helped more than 870,000 people to improve their lives. From starting up to scaling up, UnLtd’s unique package of support and funding helps social entrepreneurs to realise their untapped potential and build a better society for all.

For more information about the support offered by UnLtd: www.unltd.org.uk
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About Scope

We’re a strong community, of disabled and non-disabled people, with a shared vision of equality for disabled people. We provide practical advice and emotional support whenever people need it most. We use our collective power to change attitudes and end injustice. And campaign relentlessly to create a fairer society. We won’t stop until we achieve a society where all disabled people enjoy equality and fairness.

For more information: https://www.scope.org.uk/
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