Source: Daily Mail
By: James Chapman
Date: 7th March 2011
Commentary: Each successive government talks the talk but refuses to walk the walk when it comes to supporting small businesses. When it comes right down to it, those in power will say whatever they think they have to in order to secure the votes of those with the real power – the people.
Small business owners (SMBs) are essential elements of society as they can offer a range of opportunities to the community around them including work trials (through local colleges); on the job ‘real life’ training; flexible working arrangements as well as real work for those with limited opportunity to develop their skill sets.
When the DWP arrange an “expert panel” to discuss employment of disabled people one imagines that they want to address the needs of those on the coal-face, the small business owners who, through the vast network of outlets around the country, can offer real-life opportunities to people facing barriers in the workplace.
Apparently, since the publication of the “Life Chances” report in 2005, the government have been working towards increasing the numbers of disabled people in employment. In order to understand and learn from the experiences of employers who have a great deal of expertise in this field the DWP feel it is appropriate to hold this “expert panel” on the 30th floor of the Barclays Bank building at Canary Wharf.
Hosted by Barclays in association with the DWP and the Employers’ Forum on Disability, the event was another self-congratulatory round robin of blue chip companies who receive special treatment from the government and the DWP due to their size and resources. They are given a different set of rules than mere mortals who struggle to make ends meet and to maintain job opportunities with limited resources.
A representative of Boots (the Chemist) was very pleased with themselves as they had put their entire recruitment program on “the web” – they were a little deflated when it was pointed out to them that many of their “basic” workforce were either not computer literate, could not afford to be on-line or perhaps had no interest in computers. A lady from Barclays HR department was boastful of her ability to handle the needs of thousands of employees world-wide. The moderator of the event remained steadfast in her need to direct the discussion away from any real-world issues and to maintain the self-congratulatory nature of an event which the DWP depend upon to inform a report on employing disabled people in the UK.
Membership of the Employers Forum on Disability is open to all but with standard membership currently standing at £3,400 +VAT a year, clearly this is a club that only a select few can join. This annual subscription fee represents the wages of a part time employee or perhaps the business rates of a shop on the high street yet the DWP use such organisations as representative of the needs of disabled people in the workplace – what a joke.
If this is an example of making opportunities for disabled people in the workplace – a section of society that face more barriers than most in getting into work, how then is Mr Cameron planning to “set business free” in the real world? How many unnecessary and burdensome civil servants will be taken “off the backs of business”?
We await the results of this vow with bated breath.
Update: We/ve since posted these comments on the Blue Blog – we’ll have to see if (unlike our other comments) this one gets past the moderation queue.