Focus: Corporate Responsibility - Equality - Scope targets big business with diversity initiative

The Diversity Works programme is now inviting businesses other than its founding partners to join, writes Anita Pati.

Scope's Diversity Works employment programme for disabled people, which has been piloted under four separate strands, is now moving into its next phase, which businesses other than its founding partners will be invited to join.

The programme is led by Scope but executed by means of a partnership between disabled people, BT, HSBC, Capital One, the Department for Work and Pensions, Lehman Brothers and law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges. It offers employers a pool of disabled talent as well as providing leadership and recruitment opportunities for disabled people.

Diversity Works has four functions. It provides consultancy services and disability training to businesses, including advice on compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act. Its leadership college, in association with Ashridge Management College in Hertfordshire, offers online distance learning to the business partners' disabled staff. And it offers a recruitment service that matches disabled graduates with potential employers from the private, public and voluntary sectors.

A spokeswoman said that because the programme had run under separate strands, it was too early to collate overall figures to evaluate the numbers of disabled people to benefit so far. From now on, the various aspects will be pulled together to run under the umbrella programme, Diversity Works, which, she said, had attracted outside interest.

According to Scope, only 50 per cent of the 6.9 million disabled people of working age are in employment, compared with 87 per cent of non-disabled people of working age.

At an event last week to mark the success of the initiative so far, Sir Digby Jones, chairman of the Confederation of British Industry, said: "This is not about being politically correct. It is about doing the right thing, about good and courageous management and making the most of people, regardless of their situation."

Paul Appleyard, head of Diversity Works, said companies that ignore the skills of disabled people do so at their own risk: "Well-led diverse teams can outperform others by as much as 15 per cent, so using the innovation and creativity of disabled people makes business sense and can improve productivity."

Separately, Remploy Offiscope, the not-for-profit recruitment agency that provides outsourced office jobs for disabled people, has launched an advertising campaign that appeals to businesses and charities to change lives by outsourcing their operations to Offiscope. The agency's manager, Dave Knight, said: "We are appealing to organisations to switch their outsourcing business to us and, in doing so, make a very real impact on the lives of many disabled people."

anita.pati@haynet.com

KEY POINTS

- Diversity Works, run by Scope, is a new employment initiative for disabled people that aims to attract support from big businesses

- Sir Digby Jones said last week that employing disabled people was about "good and courageous management"

- Founding partners include BT, HSBC, Capital One, Lehman Brothers, Weil, Gotshal & Manges, and the Department for Work and Pensions

- The programme offers a recruitment service that matches employers and disabled candidates, equality training, consultancy services and management support from a leadership college.

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