West Cornwall MP tells Government Minister: ‘Use community groups to break down employment barriers.’

This week, West Cornwall MP Derek Thomas led a debate in Parliament urging the Government to act to remove barriers that prevent those with disabilities from realising their full potential and accessing employment.

He also argued that groups such Mustard Seed Charity (Helston), Manna’s Diner (Penzance), Rebuild South West (Helston), Helston and the Lizard Works and Cornwall People First, are well placed to help the Government in its quest to remove barriers that prevent people with disabilities from accessing employment.

Derek Thomas said, ‘Supporting people who have disabilities to live full lives and to enjoy meaningful employment is something I have been concerned with for over 2 decades. I called this debate because this Government has promised new funds to remove barriers that prevent people with disabilities from enjoying good access to good jobs. I’m just not sure that they’re going the right way about it. I am asking the Government to recognise that community based organisations are well placed to support people as they prepare for work, support people as they find work and support them in work.’

The Government is currently developing its Green Paper that will set out how people with disabilities will be supported in work in the future. A Disability Confident Campaign has also been launched by the Government which aims to challenge attitudes towards disability, remove barriers to employment and to ensure that disabled people have the opportunities to fulfil their potential and realise their aspirations.

Prior to entering politics Derek spent a number of years working in the community during which he chaired the Choughs Training Project (now Manna’s Diner) in Penzance and was the Development Manager for the Mustard Seed in Helston. Both organisations primarily support people with learning disabilities to gain confidence, learn everyday life skills and work within the food and hospitality sector. Since being elected as the Member of Parliament for West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Derek has been working with the Disabilities Minister, assisting with the development of the Government’s Disability Confident campaign.

Derek Thomas said, ‘I used this debate to demonstrate that the Government’s work is made easier by the many organisations that are well placed to remove the barriers that exist for those who have disabilities. I want the Government to understand the three things that our community organisations have in common: they are brilliant at what they do, they are well placed to develop this work further, but they are strapped for cash. My argument is that some of the new Government money could be used to support these organisations and dramatically improve the life chances for people with disabilities.’

In closing the debate, the Disability Minister Justin Tomlinson MP assured Mr Thomas that the Government intends to empower those organisations to ensure they are at the heart of helping disabled people to find work. He also agreed that they are well placed to help because they have the local knowledge, connections and good will, which are absolutely integral. The Minister accepted that these organisations faced challenges of accessing cash. Derek Thomas pressed the Minister to ensure that the Government’s Green Paper sought to address their funding shortages.

In October Derek is hosting an event in Marazion with the Government to introduce the various forms of help that are available to employers and community groups who want to do more to support and employ people who have disabilities.

Derek Thomas

Member of Parliament for St Ives