Organised by Evenbreak, last week’s conference outlined the benefits of employing disabled people and challenged some of the misconceptions and stereotypes about disabled people at work.
Attended by many top businesses and organisations including the BBC, GlaxoSmithKline, National Grid and the Wellcome Trust, the conference was aimed at HR Directors, Recruitment Directors and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Directors.
The conference showed companies that employing talented disabled people makes solid financial and business sense. And how it would improve their corporate image as ethical team builders who care about reputation, corporate social responsibility and image.
Also covered were all the practical considerations of employing and retaining disabled people. For already inclusive employers it was a chance to find out how to attract more talented disabled peopleand keep up to date with best practice.
The feedback to the day was very positive with Delegates describing the day as “inspirational”, “fantastic”, “thought-provoking” and “a great networking opportunity”.
The conference featured five of the biggest names in disability employment:
- Jane Hatton M.Sc. FCIPD, Founder/Director of Evenbreak spoke about the assets of disabled employees and how their job board was designed for disabled people by disabled people with their unique understanding of the issues disabled people face when looking for employment.
- Kate Headley, Development Director of The Clear Company, spoke about the benefits of employing disabled people and how companies can “Create an inclusive candidate experience”
- Mary Dunleavy, External Relations Manager from Access to Work, talking about the financial and practical support available to inclusive employers and their disabled employees.
- Dr. Phil Friend OBE, Chairman of Disability Rights UK, gave a humorous yet meaningful presentation about “Disabled people as assets, not problems” directly challenging the assumptions that have been noted in some employers when they encounter applicants declaring a disability.
- Kate Nash OBE, CEO of Kate Nash Associates, showed companies how creating effective Disabled Employee Networks and offering peer support can greatly enhance and support disabled people at work.
Delegates heard two inspiring case studies from students from Derwen College, a Natspec establishment, who had taken part in a new initiative run together with local businesses called the National Inclusive Skills Competition, for young people to demonstrate their skills and readiness for work and independence. Natspec encouraged businesses to get involved in these competitions with their local Natspec colleges.
For many, the highlight of the day was an entertaining and thought-provoking performance from Francesca Martinez. Francesca is an award-winning wobbly comedian, writer and campaigner, talking about “What is ‘Normal’?” and encouraging everyone to embrace and welcome diversity in people everywhere rather than striving to be “normal”.
Jane Hatton, Founder of Evenbreak, said “I am thrilled that we had such a successful event with very positive feedback, and such a great turnout from some very high profile organisations. Delegates left with detailed evidence about the business case for employing disabled people, and practical ideas about how and why disabled people should be included in every organisation’s recruitment plans.”
Evenbreak is an award winning social enterprise run by disabled people, for disabled people. It was founded and is run by Jane Hatton, finalist in the Stelios Disabled Entrepreneurs Award 2008, who has personal experience of employing many disabled people and the value they bring to a business. As a disabled person herself (a degenerative spinal condition that restricts her ability to sit or walk, meaning she runs Evenbreak lying down with a laptop suspended above her) she knows how important staying in work is – not just for the income, but also for the self-esteem, dignity, feeling of being useful and having a purpose it brings. As a social enterprise Evenbreak is keen to promote a positive image of disabled people in employment.