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Cork Independent

Business & Professional

Event to boost employment among people with disabilities

Wednesday, 5th June, 2019 4:03pm

An event that aimed to combat some shocking figures regarding people with disabilities who wish to work took place recently in the Cork International Hotel.

Business leaders, employers and former students attended the event organised by National Learning Network.

National Learning Network (NLN) is Cork’s largest provider of workplace training programmes for people with intellectual and physical disabilities. Despite an increasing emphasis on the importance of diversity in the workforce, people with disabilities continue to be underrepresented. They are twice as likely not to be at work, even though one in three who are not working, wish to be.

Census 2016 revealed almost two-thirds of younger people in the 18-34 age group and over one-third of all people with disabilities expressed an interest in having a job. One in seven (14 per cent) of the population has a disability and Cork city has the highest rate of disabled persons in the country, at 18.1 per cent.

More than 30 per cent of people who use Rehab Group services who were surveyed last year as part of their pre-budget submission believe that ‘people don’t want to hire people with disabilities’ while 20 per cent believe that workplaces are not welcoming of people with disabilities. More than a fifth surveyed had refused a place on a training course in the last year as they were worried about surviving without their benefits.

The event featured representatives from IBEC, Cork Business Association, Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Cork Chamber, SuperValu, Debenhams, Cork University Hospital and Trigon Hotels Cork.

At this breakfast event, potential employer partners got a flavour of the benefits of working with NLN from current employer partners, tutors and students.

Eoin Kelly, NLN Cork manager, said: “This important event consolidates our already strong relationships with business leaders and businesses of all sizes throughout Cork. Together we have secured placements for hundreds of students, many of whom have gone on to find permanent jobs.

“People living with physical and mental health disabilities suffer significant discrimination regarding employment opportunities. In the region, 13 per cent of the population have a disability, and just 30 per cent of people of working age with disabilities are working. This event is about tackling that gap and empowering employers to tap into this vital resource.”

Lawrence Owens, CEO of Cork Business Association said: “Let’s get out the message that NLN helps businesses of all sizes to remove employer nervousness. This event was a great opportunity for businesses to learn what the NLN does and the support it provides.

“I’d encourage employers to engage because it’s only by learning about the opportunities that are out there for them that they will be able to look at the situation where someone is living with a disability and distil the ability. When you do that everybody wins - work wins, the employee wins and also the employer wins.”

Marie O'Flynn, Principal Officer, Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Cork City and County said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with NLN at this event. The sign of a good welfare system is where we keep people in employment and off welfare unless they need it as a social protection. One thing that I took away from today is that inclusivity is everything. It’s one thing to be asked to the party but we must ask people to participate. If we can do that as employers, and supporters of employers, then we will have achieved a lot and form a more inclusive society.”

National Learning Network is a network of 55 colleges providing on-the-job training and education to anyone who has suffered a setback in their mental or physical health. NLN is for anyone aged 16 and above and is free. They offer person-centred learning at the student’s own pace, with onsite psychologist and numeracy and literacy classes.

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