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BUSINESSES struggling under the weight of the economic downturn are being hampered by a reluctance to employ those with disabilities, it was claimed today.

BUSINESSES struggling under the weight of the economic downturn are being hampered by a reluctance to employ those with disabilities, it was claimed today.

Bosses at the Jobcentre Plus say many company chiefs are unsure whether to offer jobs to people with long-term health conditions - and are missing out on high quality staff.

In a bid to combat the issue, a workshop is being staged in Ipswich on Thursday where employers will receive advice on the benefits of diversifying their workforce.

The Employ Ability session, which will take place at Portman Road, will explain to businesses how they can best use the talent and skills of disabled people.

Lynda Russell, Jobcentre Plus customer service director for the East of England, said: “Employ Ability provides practical information and support for managers and employers who want to know how their business can benefit from the talent and skills of disabled people and those with long-term health conditions.

“Attracting and retaining the best talent is at the heart of any business's success.”

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Ruth Attride, from Jobcentre Plus, added: “Businesses can be reluctant or unsure about employing people with disabilities or long-term health conditions but, in turn, are missing out on high quality staff.”

Thursday's Employ Ability session, which takes place between 9.15am and 12.15pm, will feature presentations from Suffolk businesses which have already reaped the rewards of employing a diverse workforce.

For more information on Employ Ability or to book your place, visit www.dwp.gov.uk/employability

Has your business benefited from employing those with disabilities? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Case study:

Doug Catlin, kitchen porter at Holiday Inn, Ipswich

On Christmas Day, 2002, Mr Catlin's life changed forever. He suffered a severe stroke at work which left him with brain injuries meaning he could no longer continue in his job as a chief security guard.

But after receiving treatment, Mr Catlin decided he wanted to work even if it meant a complete career change. After completing work preparation training, he is now an award-winning employee at the Holiday Inn in Ipswich.

He said: “I love my job and everything about it. I work with the chefs and keep them supplied with pots or other equipment they may need in a hurry. I also operate the washing machine for dishes, pots and pans.

“I feel that I've been given a chance and I want to show what I can do.”

Marian Beales, from the Holiday Inn, said: “Doug has fitted in really well with the staff here and works very hard. He is willing to help others and wants to be part of the team.

“If you employ someone who is disabled or has a health problem, you must have the right vacancy. The role has to be the right job for the person and they have to be a good fit for the business - if they are, they will shine.”

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