A beacon for inclusive talent in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly

Written by Rachel Suff, Senior Policy Adviser

In a groundbreaking project, the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (CIoSLEP) has secured £465,000 of Government funding to help local businesses recruit and retain people with disabilities and long-term health conditions. The Cornwall Work and Health Beacon Project aims to tackle skills shortages and widen the pool of talent available to employers, creating much needed employment opportunities for local people, particularly in the SME community.

In Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly there are almost 50,000 working age people whose day-to-day activities are limited by a long-term illness or disability, over 15% of the working age population, and well above the national average. On launching the project Truro & Falmouth MP Sarah Newton, Minister of State for Disabled People, Work and Health said: ‘Speaking with many employers, they tell me the fear of not being able to offer the right support can often be the biggest barrier when considering opening up their workforce. That’s why the work of the Cornwall Work and Health Beacon Project is so important. It will help businesses become more confident in supporting employees with health conditions and disabilities, to ensure they’re recruiting from the widest pool of talent possible.

As part of its public policy work the CIPD works closely with the Government’s Joint Work and Health Unit on its 'Improving Lives' strategy to help inform its plans to transform employment prospects for disabled people and those with long-term health conditions over the next 10 years. A previous article outlines our response to the Government’s consultation, highlighting the considerable step change needed in the recruitment and retention of people with a disability and/or health condition if its aims are to be realised.

Feedback from our membership confirms there are several barriers holding back employers from having the confidence to recruit from this valuable talent pool, including:

  • Employers’ and line managers’ lack of awareness, knowledge and understanding of disability and the many different types of disability and health conditions that may affect people in many different ways, in particular knowledge about reasonable adjustments.
  • Misconceptions and unconscious bias in relation to recruiting people with a disability and/or health condition; many (particularly small) employers and line managers are unlikely to have had previous experience of recruiting or managing someone with a particular disability before.
  • Not enough open and inclusive working environments to support the effective disclosure of a disability and/or health condition, particularly in relation to mental health.

The Beacon project offers a real opportunity for organisations, particularly smaller ones with a lack of people management expertise, in the region to tap into the help and resources needed to help bridge this confidence gap. The LEP will work closely with the business community to examine how employers make hiring decisions, and promote more inclusive employment practices through education, confidence building, a digital hub, and peer-to-peer support. Some CIPD members and people professionals are already involved in the project. When the CIPD met with the Minister Sarah Newton in December 2018 she spoke passionately about the project and asked if there were opportunities for more CIPD members, particularly those supporting SMEs, to become involved.

Members and organisations in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly wanting to find out more about Cornwall Work and Health Beacon Project should visit the Cornwall & Isles Growth Hub website or

email beaconproject@cioslep.com

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