Transforming disability employment: social entrepreneurs taking on the creative industries and more

Business leaders with bold plans to create more employment opportunities for disabled people have won funding to grow and develop their ventures.

15 social entrepreneurs from across the UK have won funding awards from £5000 to £15,000 as part of a programme which aims to close the disability employment gap through the creation of new quality jobs, skills and training opportunities for disabled people.

The media, film and creative industries are growing rapidly, with one in six jobs in London in the creative sector.

However, there are still huge barriers to entry in and opportunities are frequently given to those with existing personal connections.

Research from the Creative Diversity Network found that disabled people are significantly under-represented across all genres in the broadcasting sector. Whilst disabled people make up 18% of the population, they make up only 6.2% of scripted roles and 5% of those working off-screen.

Many social entrepreneurs in our autumn cohort are tackling these challenges and inequalities to transform the creative industries.

Run in partnership with disability equality charity Scope and UnLtd - the foundation for social entrepreneurs - the Closing the Disability Employment gap programme has taken on its second cohort of award winners this autumn.

Disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people, and while Government figures have shown falling unemployment rates in recent years, the disability employment gap – the difference in the rate of employment of disabled and non-disabled people – has stayed at around 30 per cent for the last ten years. A Scope report found that a rise of five per cent in the disability employment rate would lead to an increase in GDP of £23 billion by 2030.

Award-winners from the programme include:

Kippie is a Community Interest Company that uses the process of designing and making computer games, as an educational experience to teach creative skills. Katherine Rowlandson and her team were included in Nesta's list of 50 New Radicals.

They have recently focused on helping young adults with learning disabilities make their own computer games. They will use their Do It Award to run a pilot programme to recruit and train adults who have a learning disability to in turn help deliver their workshops.  This training would include learning design-thinking methodology, the principles of game design and graphic design, and software used to make games.

ONE LAB CIC, ONEBYME is a gender fluid, urban lifestyle brand that is gaining international traction.  Elsa Ellies, and Miles Dunphy co-founded ONELAB CIC as a creative platform within their business, to empower children and adults with special educational needs and disabilities to find their voice in fashion entrepreneurship. ONELAB is closing the disability employment gap by offering practical design training, culminating in the launch of each person’s commercial fashion collection, sold internationally. 

Last year ONELAB received a Do It Award and which enabled them to train a total of 22 residents of Tower Hamlets who made commercial products sold in their shop. Building on that success, their 2019 Grow It Award will help them add new features, such as walkaway design and prints, corporate away-days and other lines.

Nigel G Honey, Lead Trainer, and founder of Ability Post Production Academy was told he would never be a film editor because of his invisible disability. He went on to edit films for Cannes, Raindance, Edinburgh and BAFTA. Now his social venture Ability Post Production Academy passes on those skills and trains disabled people in post-production editing, and the latest industry software. They will be particularly working with young people with visible and invisible disabilities, also helping with their confidence, team work and communication skills.  There’s a real skills shortage in Scotland for editors, so Nigel has an opportunity to change the industry with new partnerships with broadcasters.

Ability Today is an online platform created by social entrepreneur Grant Logan to host journalism for the disabled community, by the disabled community. They have a small team of roving reporters going out on assignments to create interesting content. They also gather information on relevant products and services for their community. All of their activities are designed to provide work experience and volunteer placements developing the skills, belief, motivation and confidence to enter the workplace. The award from UnLtd will allow them to develop their disabled journalists programme, and to provide even more opportunities to our growing team.

Denise Ramsey, UnLtd Director of Awards, said: “It is fantastic to see how social ventures are responding to gaps in opportunities for disabled people, and coming up with unique businesses to make offer secure employment and learn valuable skills.

Many of the social entrepreneurs to win funding awards have a disability or impairment themselves, which allow them to bring lived expertise to their work. At UnLtd we are committed to supporting them to make a real difference, so they can create lasting positive change in their communities and beyond.”

Mark Hodgkinson, Chief Executive, disability equality charity, Scope, said:
“Disabled people remain massively underrepresented in the creative industries, so it’s exciting that many of this year’s entrepreneurs are working in this area. When disabled people don’t see themselves represented, talent and potential go unrecognised and negative attitudes and stigma goes unchallenged.

Scope’s partnership with UnLtd shows that social entrepreneurship and investment can be a powerful tool in tackling the disability employment gap.”

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Author Info


Ruth Coustick-DealCommunications Manager

UnLtd award winners all have fascinating stories about their ventures and why they do what they do. My role is to ensure these stories are told and seen by the world. I want to make sure all the teams at UnLtd communicate their work effectively, and that they have the best tools to do so. I have a background in political campaigning, spending the last seven years trying to improve human rights in the UK. In my spare time I co-host and produce a podcast about technology and its impact on society, and enjoy drawing and making art

Backing enterprising people with ambitions to improve the job market

Unemployment has been steadily falling in the UK, yet not everyone who wants to work can gain appropriate, meaningful work. According to Scope, disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people.

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