The power of partnerships

Jen Sweeney, Regional Fundraising Manager

Jen Sweeney talks about how we're trying to close the disability employment gap - thanks to our new partnership with John Lewis.

A woman and man looking at a laptop and chatting

The effect of the pandemic has been particularly telling for disabled people and, for those looking for employment opportunities, aspirations have been further constricted by COVID.

Our own Locked out of the Labour Market research of last year spelt out the problem; more than half of disabled 18-24 year-olds (57%) said they felt that the pandemic had affected their ability to work, while 54% said that it had hit their future earnings potential. 

This crisis of confidence amongst disabled young job seekers exacerbates a situation that is already difficult. The same research revealed further covid related assumptions, with 42% of employers discouraged from hiring disabled job applicants due to concerns around supporting them properly during the pandemic. A depressing residual stigma where 1 in 5 employers (20%) said they would be less likely to hire someone if they were disabled.

Leonard Cheshire has significant expertise in working with disabled people in the UK and internationally to support them in overcoming barriers to employment, developing the skills and confidence to forge a career. In the last year alone, we have supported over 32,000 disabled people to find employment globally through our programmes. We have supported over 10,000 disabled people in the UK through employment, digital inclusion, and volunteering programmes

We strive to widen the aspirations of disabled people and work with partners who share our vision that disability isn’t a barrier to a brilliant career. Our immediate goal is to reduce the psychological impact of the pandemic and build confidence amongst disabled job seekers.

Working with John Lewis

Over the past four years, both The John Lewis Foundation and the Partner Community Investment Fund have supported our work. In store collaborations with our Can-Do inclusive community programme has now developed into virtual volunteering and a new initiative funded by the John Lewis Partner Community Investment Fund.

Our experienced skills development team will use their expertise to deliver a bespoke programme. We will provide a blend of virtual employability and confidence building skills while targeting the communities where the John Lewis Partnership will be closing stores.  We are creating a framework to support in six locations: Basingstoke, Chester, Peterborough, Sheffield, Tunbridge Wells and York.

The programme aims to empower participants and build confidence to tackle their career pathways, be it an apprenticeship, further education, or work. It’s a particularly exciting project for us. We look forward to ongoing collaboration with John Lewis to develop and execute the programme.

Innovative partnerships will help us towards our prime goal of narrowing the employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people. And this pairing feels particularly apt. People power and doing right were written into John Lewis Partnership’s principles right at the beginning when it was founded over a century ago. So they know a thing or two about helping people succeed and have quite a bit of experience in doing so. 

We can’t wait to get to work doing just that.