Seven million people in the UK are disabled or have a health condition and at present the employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people is over 30 per cent.
That means there is an enormous wealth of talent that businesses are failing to tap into, purely because their organisations aren’t quite as accessible to disabled jobseekers as they could be.
The Prime Minister launched the Disability Confident campaign in 2013 with the aim of breaking down barriers to employment and challenging negative attitudes towards disability.
Since then, big name employers including Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Barclays and BT have signed up to become Disability Confident employers, making pledges to do more to take on disabled job seekers.
It is not just big businesses who can make a difference though, small businesses have a role to play too and having set up my own business at the age of 19, I have had many disabled people forming part of my team over the years and know how much they have to offer companies of all sizes.
I want to pass on this message to businesses in the Gosport area: by becoming a Disability Confident Employer the number of high quality applicants soars, the workforce more accurately reflects a diverse customer base and additional skills are introduced to the organisation.
For that reason, last week I brought the Disability Confident campaign to my constituency, hosting an event at St Vincent College during which businesses across Gosport, Stubbington, Lee-on-the-Solent and Hill Head came together to hear from employees, employers and supportive organisations about their experiences.
I have always been proud of the work ethic of people living on the Gosport peninsula. Despite a shortage of employment opportunities within our town, the unemployment rate is only 1.3 per cent.
I know that this strong local work ethic is held by residents with physical disabilities as well as those with learning difficulties who all deserve the independence and security of a regular pay packet.