The UK wide Disability Confident campaign, aimed at supporting and promoting employment opportunities for people with disabilities took a big step forward in Ayrshire with the launch of DICE at the Grand Hall Kilmarnock.
Standing for Disability Inclusive = Confident Employers, DICE is a newly formed partnership of organisations which work together to support each other in employing and retaining people with disabilities.
The launch of DICE Ayrshire proved a great success, with over 150 people coming together to listen to inspirational speakers, browse useful stalls and take part in workshops.
26 organisations had stalls at the event, which attracted representatives of 50 local employers, keen to find out more about recruiting and supporting employees with additional needs. They heard keynote speeches from Dr Philipa Whitford MP, Alan Brown MP and Eddie Fraser, Director of Health and Social Care. The workshops proved very popular, with the question and answer session throwing up many useful suggestions for the DICE partnership to consider and pursue.
Feedback from the event was overwhelmingly positive. With one delegate saying “I could have listened to Phillipa Whitford all day” and another commenting: “Good conference, well planned and executed. Very good keynote speakers. Also appreciated the local perspective being brought into all aspects of the event.”
Councillor Elena Whitham, Cabinet member for Economy said: “Together with our partners in DICE, we were delighted by the turnout at this launch event. This event was aimed at employers, helping them understand just how much support is available and how sometimes simple adaptations can smooth the path to integrating someone with disabilities into the workforce. It also looked at what can be done to help when an existing employee develops a disability, to enable them to continue in their job to everyone’s benefit.
“But perhaps the most useful aspect of the day was the networking and feedback. As a result two employers have committed to joining the DICE Steering group and our partnership has now increased to 25 public, private sector and voluntary organisations. Everyone had the opportunity to discuss, question and make constructive suggestions and this gives us a great platform on which to build for future initiatives and events.
“The nationwide aim for the Disability Confident campaign is to halve the employment rate gap between those with disability (48%) and those without any long term health issue or disability (80%) and with this new partnership we’re confident that we can make some inroads towards this target.”
Jim Watson, Job Centre Plus Disability Employment Adviser who organised the conference said: “The event was a tremendous success. Statistics alone would suggest a busy and lively event however, is not the whole story. The level of engagement, enhanced working relationships, information shared also made this event a success. The running of the event was a real team effort on the day from the key note speakers, those leading the workshops, the two comperes, the organisations represented through the stallholders and all of the volunteers who managed VIPs, the welcome desk, signposting and fun activity!
“The evaluation forms indicate a consistent excellent or good rating in the responses received. It was a jam packed programme including a wide selection of information. There was a real positivity, enthusiasm and willingness to address issues. As a local initiative and as part of the Disability Confident campaign it certainly raised the profile of disability and health in the work place as well as the service providers. In future DICE will offer more opportunity for discussion of issues through a more varied structure. As a launch event however it addressed mind-set toward disability and encouraged decisions by employers based upon ability; the skill set, experience, reliability and character the applicant/employee offers.
“Employer and support agencies working together was showcased through video, in the Employer Experience workshop and showed business need being met as well as offering the individual work. A very inspiring account of one employee with Asperger’s Scotland who is now considered irreplaceable and delivering high work standards, was one example of successful working together and ability given opportunity to shine!
“As an event DICE was able to offer partner organisations the opportunity to showcase their services to employers and other partners. The general ‘buzz’ and engagement has led to more organisations joining DICE and two East Ayrshire private employers indicating that they want to join the DICE steering group. It is excellent to gain that business perspective and commitment in future planning.
“We will hold a full DICE partner meeting in February to review the event and feedback and plan for the future. Following the launch DICE is now in a healthy position with a large database of employers and partner organisations, employer representation on the steering group and valuable experience/contacts initiated.”