On The Ground: Generate Opportunities

Sarah Speight

Scheme: Diamond Initiative

Funding: £15,000 grant from Wandsworth Council for launch costs, publicity and staff time

Objectives: To help disabled people find jobs

With 8.6 million disabled people in the UK, Generate Opportunities believes employers are overlooking a huge percentage of the potential workforce.

Generate, a charity based in Wandsworth, south London, supports people with mild to moderate learning difficulties. Last month, it launched the Diamond Initiative, which aims to encourage employers to recruit more people with disabilities.

In partnership with eight local training agencies, including Jobcentre Plus, the Diamond Initiative will offer a free service to employers to help them recruit staff. Generate's task will be to contact employers within the borough and convince them of the benefits of employing a disabled person.

Richard Lamplough, Generate's service manager, said: "The initiative has two strands - an awareness campaign on accessibility issues and a recruitment service that aims to match local disabled job-seekers to vacancies employers may have."

The Diamond Initiative is particularly timely. In October this year, the third instalment of the Disability Discrimination Act comes into force.

This will affect practically everyone working in any type of organisation and will make discrimination against disabled people unlawful.

"The message for employers at this stage is straightforward," said Lamplough.

"Disabled people don't want special treatment - they just want equal treatment that takes into account their skills and practical work requirements.

This should begin from the moment they're asked to fill in a job application form."

One person that Generate was able to help into full-time employment is Gordon Warner, who has a visual impairment. Gordon now works as a clerical assistant at the Education Department in Wandsworth Borough Council.

For manager John Ramnarace, the key has been to make a few adjustments to Gordon's computer equipment. "Perhaps at the start, a few people weren't sure whether or not they could give Gordon the same sorts of tasks as his colleagues, but the adaptations changed all that," he said. "He now does exactly the same as his able-bodied colleagues, if not more."

Lamplough sees potential returns from the initiative for both sides.

"The more businesses learn about accessibility issues for their staff, the more likely they are to learn about the requirements of their disabled customers," he said.

"The number of disabled people in the UK equates to a spending power of £45-£50bn - surely no business can afford to miss out on that."

For more information see www.generate-uk.org.

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