Removing Barriers Project

Local companies surpass expectations by committing to become Disability Confident Leaders as part of Dorset’s Removing Barriers project  

Last week saw the first face-to-face training session take place to kickstart the Dorset Careers Hub’s Removing Barriers project.  

With the aim of educating local businesses within the county on how best to support young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), a group of 18 people met at Merley House in Wimborne on Tuesday 31st. January. 

Among the attendees were representatives from the 12 companies that have signed up to the year-long project wanting to achieve “Leader” status within the government’s Disability Confident scheme.  

Running the project in partnership with Dorset Careers Hub is Andrew Holland, director of sendme2work – a consultancy that promotes and enables inclusion in the workplace.  

“When we first launched the project back in October 2022, we were looking for 10 local companies to sign up to the scheme. We’ve surpassed that goal now and I’m delighted to say that we now have 12 organisations on board and each one is keen to learn and adapt their workplace in order to attract and nurture a diverse and inclusive workforce,” said Holland.  

“This was the first of several events that will be taking place throughout the year and we’re very excited to see how they all progress in order to achieve that Leader status.” 

The diverse group of companies include the likes of Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, children’s hospice Julia’s House; microbrewery Brewhouse and Kitchen; Marsham Court Hotel; Weymouth College; catering and hospitality company The Crumbs Project and motor manufacturer Parvalux. 

With the government’s Disability Confident scheme having three levels, becoming a Leader is the top tier. However, here in Dorset, while 150 employers are signed up to the scheme, only three are in the top tier. Removing Barriers has been devised to address this and nurture more companies to reach the level three Leader status.  

Fresh to the government scheme at level one is information technology services provider Kimcell. Attending the training event was Kimcell’s director for 5G and future networks capability, Gordon Fong.

“This first event has really got me thinking about how much we can do. With little steps we can move in the right direction towards having a more inclusive workplace and workforce. We just need to think about how we can do things slightly differently. For example, to advertise future job vacancies, perhaps we’ll use video or alt-text?” 

Conversely, despite 50% of its staff having special educational needs and disabilities, The Crumbs Project still admits it has much to learn.

“We don’t even talk about disabilities in our company because there’s no ‘standard’ or ‘norm’. Our environment has to be fully inclusive for us to be able to operate. But there are still so many aspects we need to improve on and we continue to learn all the time,”

says head of operations Lee Whalley.

“We want to be champions in this field and this is why we’ve signed up to the Removing Barriers project.” 

By Kerry Baggott

Editor’s note:  
Removing Barriers is a fully-funded programme initiated by Dorset Careers Hub and Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership, with the aim of increasing the number of ‘Leaders’ in the county within the government’s Disability Confident scheme and thereby create job opportunities for around 20 young people with an Education Health and Care Plan. The programme is being run in partnership with sendme2work, an organisation whose remit is to increase the career opportunities for young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. 

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