Virgin Media, the UK television, telecoms and internet company, has set itself a target of getting a million more disabled people into permanent jobs by the end of 2020.
The target, backed by a varied programme, is in line with the company’s overall aim of helping Britain’s disabled people to live independently.
Virgin Media was part of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin group until 2013, when it was sold to Liberty Global, the world’s largest international television and broadband company, based in Denver, Colorado.
Its decision to champion the disability cause was made after consultations with stakeholders and in the light of the most recent statistics – half of the UK’s 7.2m disabled people of employment age are out of a job.
The company has called its campaign Work With Me and has teamed up with Scope, the disability equality charity, to achieve its objective.
Hands-on activities are playing an important role in the campaign. The company is offering advice to disabled people, even on routine matters, such as writing a curriculum vitae. Many applicants are unsure how to strike the balance between stating their limitations and declaring they are capable of doing a job.
On another level Virgin Media is working with companies to persuade them that they should take on disabled applicants. They are sharing their knowledge and experience to mobilize big businesses to show an interest.
As part of its partnership with Scope the company is contributing £2m ($2.6m, €2.27m) to help the charity to hire employment advisers, and to provide a digital channel in efforts to move more disabled people into work.
Support of sport is a particularly visible aspect of Virgin Media’s campaign. Since 2016 the company has sponsored Southampton, the Premier League football club closest to its Hampshire headquarters, and for some matches the Scope logo appears on the players’ shirts.
On the world stage the company has become a partner of the British Paralympic Association for the 2018 and 2020 Games, joining other high-profile names including Adidas, Toyota and Sainsbury’s, the UK supermarket group.
At the time of the 2018 Games Tim Hollingsworth, chief executive of the British Paralympic Association, said: “We know ParalympicsGB athletes are amongst the most inspirational and the most fearless figures in public life and their success can have a real impact by challenging perceptions of what disabled people can achieve.”
Katie Buchanan, Virgin Media’s head of sustainability, is emphatic about the need for radical attitudes to help disabled people to obtain jobs and stay employed.
She points out that the UK disability employment gap has remained at about 30 percentage points for ten years, despite a number of government initiatives, so her focus is firmly on employers.
She says: “We need drastic action to achieve change from business to get things done.”
John Howell, Chief of Thought Leadership and Editorial Director, is a co-founder of 3BL Media, the parent company of Triple Pundit, begun in 2009. Howell oversees original editorial content procurement and creation. He is also the author of the weekly Brands Taking Stands Newsletter. He has written and edited for Elle, Artforum, High Times, the New York Times Magazine, and the LA Times. Howell is based in Wonalancet, NH.