Published date 30 September 2021

Providing opportunities for all with a more diverse workforce

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A new support programme, designed to break down barriers and help more disabled people into work is being launched across the West of England.

100 businesses will receive tailored, targeted disability inclusion training to help them create a more diverse workforce.

The project, which is part of the Workforce for the Future programme, is being delivered by the leading disability charity Leonard Cheshire on behalf of the West of England Combined Authority.

West of England Mayor Dan Norris said: “I want disabled people in the West of England to have the right opportunities to get into employment. Work can be enjoyable, energising, and a boost to self-esteem. This programme is a step in the right direction, and I look forward to hearing first-hand from disabled people about its impact.”

The most recent statistics available in the region are from the 2011 census, which revealed that in Bristol for example 75.4% of disabled people aged 16 and over were economically inactive compared to a quarter (24.9%) of their non-disabled counterparts.

Leonard Cheshire CEO, Ruth Owen, said: “There are over 7.7 million people of working age in the UK who are disabled or have a long-term condition, which equates to approximately 125,000 people in the West of England.  Encouraging applications from disabled people is good for business, not only because it increases the number of talented applicants available, but because it also creates a workforce that reflects the diverse range of customers a business serves, and the community in which it is based.”

Over the next eighteen months Leonard Cheshire will work with local SMEs to help them increase their knowledge and understanding of disability, providing training, workshops and resources and support them to proactively employ disabled people.

Applications are now open for the Inclusion, Disability, Equality, Action (IDEA) project.

Eligible businesses will be based in the West of England (Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire), and be a Small or Medium sized Enterprise (SME) with between 5 and 250 employees.

Those interested in joining the scheme can find out more information and apply by visiting Workforce for the Future or contacting

IDEA will also collaborate with a cross section of business networks, employment specialists and higher education groups in the region including Workforce for the Future partners; Business West, Western Training Provider Network (WTPN) and University West of England (UWE Bristol) to build capacity and inclusivity of their delivery.

Workforce for the Future is an £8m programme – co-funded by the West of England Combined Authority and the European Social Fund (ESF) – that works with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to help them develop their future workforce, meeting their current and future needs.

To find out more please visit Workforce for the Future.

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