20/07/2014 16:22 BST | Updated 19/09/2014 06:59 BST

What Do the Prime Minister, the BBC and the National Union of Students Have in Common?

What do the Prime Minister, the BBC and the National Union of Students have in common?

Not very much, I think I hear you say. But one thing I am absolutely confident about. They all believe passionately that businesses should employ more disabled people.

It was a year ago that I sat in a conference room with the Prime Minister, an assortment of government ministers and 300 business leaders, when he launched Disability Confident to get more companies engaged with employing more disabled people.

Because it's the right thing to do. Because it will benefit their bottom line by attracting new talent with new insights. Because it will make their existing staff feel better about their employer. Because it will please their customers to see fewer statements on posters about "values" and more examples of values in action. For all these reasons, businesses should take action now to employ more disabled people.

At Leonard Cheshire we have understood the benefits of employing disabled people for some time. We have worked with companies for many years to help them to be more disability aware and sufficiently confident to offer more jobs to disabled people. Examples of proactive steps like those at the BBC announced this week are still - sadly - rare. We have also worked with disabled people to support them to gain the right skills for jobs and the confidence to apply.

With over half of working-age disabled people still without a job, we decided a year ago that more needed to be done to address this waste of talent and skills. Especially for young people. Change100 was our response to this.

Change100 is a life changing opportunity that provides disabled students with the skills and experience needed to thrive at work, as well as boosting their self-confidence and motivation.

12 months on and Change100 has become a reality for talented undergraduates who have started their work experience with some of the UK's leading companies.

The benefits are not at all one way. This is not charity. Businesses who have taken part in Change100 have said that they are simply delighted at the quality of the candidates. They have also had the opportunity to become more confident about disability, understanding how to support disabled employees and also therefore understanding better their disabled customers.

Our students' three month programmes began this summer with companies such as Barclays, Standard Life and SABMiller. We are proud that they've given outstanding disabled undergraduates this chance to shine, to change their perceptions and expectations about the world of work and show what disabled people have to offer.

The scheme has also won praise from the National Union of Students, who said that Change100 provides a real opportunity to get young disabled people into work. In May we brought leading employers together with disabled students to a reception at No10 Downing Street with Samantha Cameron to help mark the first year of this programme. It was a special day.

We know that disabled people have the potential, drive and desire to be our country's future leaders or entrepreneurs if they are given the chance. We also know that our best companies value talent and we're delighted to be able to connect the two. And we welcome support from anyone - NUS, Prime Minister or BBC - with the common sense to make common cause with us.

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