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PA Images: Falklands War veteran is fronting the conference at Salford Quays

The first ever conference of its kind to showcase the talents of disabled people and their huge value to the North West’s regional economy is taking place in Manchester this week – and is being attended by some of the region’s biggest employers.

Fronted by Falklands veteran and businessman Simon Weston, the event in Salford Quays is designed to increase confidence among local employers to recruit and retain more of the 500,000 disabled people of working age in the region currently not in work.

Up to 120 business leaders, public sector organisations, politicians and community leaders are attending and delegates include the likes of Virgin Trains, Liverpool Football Club, BT, BBC, ITV and Sainsbury’s.

The conferences are part of the celebrity-backed Disability Confident campaign launched by the Prime Minister in London in July, which already has the backing of major businesses like Easyjet, Barclays, Asda and Honda.

David Cameron told business leaders that it’s time to dispel the myths about the complexities of employing disabled people – who account for 20 per cent of the population.

Minister of State for Disabled People Mike Penning said: “Although the employment rates for disabled people have increased gradually over the years, we know that all too often the talents of disabled people in the workforce are left untapped.

“Disability Confident is part of the Government’s long-term economic plan to increase employment rates among disabled people. One in five of us have a disability – by providing employment and accessible services, businesses can tap into the £80bn potential spending power of disabled people.”

Falklands veteran and businessman Simon Weston said: “What I want employers to take away from this conference is that disabled people can be some of your best employees. We’re some of the most determined workers, who go the extra mile to secure results.

To overlook the skills and talents of people because they have a physical or mental disability could ultimately cost you money.”

Access to Work – the flagship government programme to help disabled people get or keep a job – provides financial help towards the extra costs faced by disabled people in work. It can cover expenses for travel costs, specially adapted equipment or support workers.

ITV