A VALE of Glamorgan entrepreneur has used her own experiences to back the Welsh Government campaign promoting the benefits of a diverse workforce and raising awareness of the support available to help businesses attract, recruit, and retain disabled people.
Ceri Jennings, from Cardiff, founded Sparkles Cleaning Services Wales & West. They offer commercial, construction, domestic and speciality cleaning services across Wales.
Promoting diversity is a passion of Ms Jennings’. She was diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age and struggled with spelling and visual processing at a time where dyslexia was not understood. She felt alienated during her school years and early career due to the lack of support and awareness.
But today she credits these experiences with helping her to become the successful business leader she is today and creating her focus on diversity and inclusion.
Ms Jennings said: “Dyslexia like many other impairments is generally misunderstood. However, I have always felt determined to show that just because my brain processes things differently, it does not mean that I am not able to do what others can.
“Dyslexia itself is not a barrier. It is the barriers which are created in society that can prevent us from achieving our full potential. When becoming an employer, I wanted to contribute to a more open, diverse, and inclusive society.”
Ms Jennings was also driven by her daughter Sophie’s experience of trying to get employment after being diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis.
“My daughter Sophie was encouraged not to disclose her impairment when applying for jobs as she was told it would affect her employability chances. Choosing to ignore this stigmatism, Sophie has successfully paved her own way within the conveyancing industry. She is truly inspiring and is a further force behind my motivation for becoming an inclusive employer.”
20 per cent of the Sparkles staff are disabled and Ms Jennings believes this is a real strength. She said: “As a business, there is so much to gain from adopting an inclusive recruitment process and hiring people from all backgrounds including disabled people. The journey to becoming inclusive is a rewarding process for all parties and involves investing only a small amount of time in order to gain a brilliant, diversified workforce.
“We have experienced increased productivity and less fluctuation within roles held by disabled employees. We have also saved time and money of recruitment costs due to a lower staff turn-around, and been recognised as a socially responsible company which has had a positive effect on our reputation.”
Sparkles has made use of the Access to Work scheme that helps to cover the cost of practical support that a person with an impairment may need to start or stay in work as well as funding to help pay for adaptations to the working environment or installation of any special equipment.
One of Ms Jennings’ staff who has benefitted is Loughlin Martin, the 21-year-old has autism.
Ms Jennings said: “Through Access to Work and the support of specialist employment advisers Elite, we were able to appoint a work support mentor to shadow Loughlin and ensure he felt happy and secure in his role. He’s now flying and is a dedicated member of staff, who treats their job with the upmost respect and genuinely loves what he is doing.”
Businesses could be eligible for up to £60,700 through the scheme. The Welsh Government have recently appointed a network of Disabled People’s Employment Champions to offer bespoke advice to businesses on being more inclusive employers, recruitment practices and access to the support available to them and their employees.
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