Reflecting on our transforming lives partnership

11 January 2017

As the Chief Executive of Scope, I am immensely proud of what we’ve achieved in our partnership with Virgin Media to help transform the lives of disabled people across the UK.

As we begin 2018, I wanted to reflect on some of the work we delivered together over the past year, and look ahead to what we’ve got planned for the next 12 months.

Scope and Virgin Media’s partnership goes far beyond the usual charity-corporate fundraising model: it’s a strategic, three-year partnership with a greater purpose –combining Virgin Media’s brand power with Scope’s disability expertise to ensure disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else.

We took this principle to the football pitch in May 2017 when we highlighted the discrimination disabled fans face at football grounds. Virgin Media put this issue front and centre of the sport by donating their shirt sponsorship of Southampton FC to Scope for the Saints’ match against Manchester United.

It was a truly spectacular sight as the home side strode onto the turf wearing their special Scope-branded shirts in front of 32,000 cheering football fans.

As I walked out onto the half-way line at St Mary’s stadium that night, it hit home what an incredible opportunity we have to demonstrate the power of our partnership and shift society’s attitudes towards disability.

However, we were only getting started in our mission to transform disabled people’s lives.

In the autumn we launched our campaign, ‘Work With Me’. The initiative exists to help support more disabled people into work and to stay in work. Our big goal is to support one million disabled people into work and to stay there by the end of 2020.

Our research found disabled people have to apply for 60 per cent more jobs than non-disabled people.

I was shocked by stories of disabled job-seekers who applied for hundreds of jobs but were unsuccessful because employers couldn’t see past their condition or impairment. This injustice illustrates why the ‘Work With Me’ campaign is so important.

Lauren Pitt applied for more than 200 jobs with no reply, and Josh Dennis said he felt “lucky” to hear anything after job applications. This struck a chord with the public and the media who got behind the campaign.   

It underpinned why action is needed to close the disability employment gap and the importance of our new employment service, ’Support to Work’, providing one-to-one specialist sessions delivered through digital channels (e.g. webchat, Skype and telephone support) to cover areas such as CV building, job hunting, and interview preparation.

One woman told us how she had spent 15 months searching for a job after an injury to her arm and hands. She said ‘Support to Work’ had “turned her life around”.

We’re just getting started… In the coming weeks we’re hosting a business roundtable - a platform for big businesses to discuss what changes the Government can make to support more disabled people into work.

Later this year we’ll launch the second phase of ‘Support to Work’, with a fully-fledged digital hub which will allow us to reach huge numbers of disabled people and support them in their journey to work.

It’s going to be an incredibly busy 12 months, but I’m excited about what Scope and Virgin Media can achieve together, and how we can transform the lives of even more disabled people across the UK.

Mark Atkinson is the Chief Executive of Scope

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