I want to draw attention to the almost 7 million disabled people in the UK of working age – fewer than half of whom are in employment, a shocking statistic that urgently requires our attention.
In over 20 years of starting up businesses, I have met many very talented disabled people who really want to work and who, for reasons including discrimination and prejudice, have not been given the opportunity to do so. In some instances, they have turned to self-employment and set up their own businesses, which have grown and flourished.
Seven years ago, I set up the annual Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs with the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability.
The Award highlights the inspiring achievements of disabled entrepreneurs and the winner receives £50,000 – the largest cash sum of its kind – to invest in their business in any way they want. They also receive significant media coverage which helps them raise the profile of their business and bring in more customers. Each year, I am bowled over by the talent and sheer enthusiasm of the applicants.
But I want to see more disabled business owners applying this year. There are around 100,000 self-employed disabled people in the UK and this award is open to anyone with a disability – as defined by the Equality Act – which includes all disabilities and long term health conditions. This year, we have also launched a nomination scheme, so friends and family can nominate a disabled business owner they think deserves to win.
Don’t be shy or modest – what have you got to lose? Someone has to win and it could be you! To see how it has helped previous winners, take a look at our video www.stelios.com/news-archive/sir-stelios-backs-disability-confident-conference.html.
Apply now or nominate someone, before the deadline on 25 October by visiting www.lcdisability.org/stelios
Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou London