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Two north-west councils are celebrating after winning more than£1.5m in European funding to pioneer a new approach...
Two north-west councils are celebrating after winning more than£1.5m in European funding to pioneer a new approach to work.

Bury MBC and Stockport MBC will work together on a pioneering new approach to helping disadvantaged people - ranging from lone parents, ethnic minorities and women who are under-represented in the workforce to people with physical disabilities or learning difficulties - secure and keep jobs. They will also work with employers to encourage them to consider new ways of recruiting and supporting staff from the above groups. The two councils successfully bid for the funding after their own research highlighted the limitations of current 'supported employment' programmes, which focus largely on training and preparation rather than helping people get into real jobs and stay in them. As a result, many people who would like to work are put off - or have to give up their job because of lack of support - while employers could be missing out on talent by recruiting from a small segment of the potential workforce. Previously the two Local Authorities have worked together with the Popular Bank of Milan in Italy on an international project to get disabled people into work and support them in keeping the job and have produced a good practice CD and video which is now being made available throughout Britain and Italy.

'For instance nationally, people with disabilities are nearly seven times as likely as non-disabled people to be out of work and claiming benefits, yet many of them would like to work and could work successfully, if only the right support was available. They are just one of the groups of people we will now be able to help, thanks to this funding, ' said Cllr Martin Candler, executive member for social care and health in Stockport.

Bury MBC's executive member for health, housing and social services, Cllr Mike Connolly, added: 'Our first project gave us valuable experience in working with employers and discovering what they needed to successfully recruit and support disadvantaged people. That work led to this successful funding bid to pioneer a new approach. It will be a radical re-think - we expect to work closely with a range of employers from all business sectors to explore new ways of recruiting and supporting disadvantaged people. It is great to see two North West Councils working well and coming up with tangible results that benefit not just local people but individuals far wide afield.'

The project will focus on supporting employers, rather than individual job seekers and aims to create a model service that other Councils can learn from and follow when setting up their Welfare to Work strategies. Findings from the project will feed into both National and International Welfare to Work Policy

Funding for the project has come from the EQUAL GB Community Initiative Programme designed to develop and test new and innovative solutions for the most disadvantaged people in the labour market. It will be available until March 2005, after which further funding will be available to publicise and promote the findings of the project.

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