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Disabled work placements urged

High profile entrepreneurs have backed a Government drive to get every British business to take on someone with a disability for a work placement next year.

Sir Richard Branson and Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou called on firms not to overlook the talents of people with physical or learning disabilities.

The move is the latest phase of the Government's Disability Confident initiative to improve the employment rate for the UK's 6.9 million working-age disabled people.

Easyjet founder Sir Stelios said: "The skills and flair of disabled people in Great Britain is extraordinary and the businesses of this country overlook the talents of disabled people at their peril."

Virgin Group chairman Sir Richard said: "Having a learning disability should never hold you back.

"Dyslexia didn't stop me building one of this country's best loved brands. It isn't a person's disability that matters in business. It's their ability"

In the 12 months to September, the disability employment rate increased by 2.5% to 46.2%, the largest year-on-year increase in a decade, according to the Department for Work and Pensions.

Disability minister Mark Harper said: "The fact that there are now an extra quarter of a million disabled people in work is excellent news. But it's still not good enough.

"If every business gave someone with a disability a work placement next year then hundreds of thousands of people would get the experience they need and employers could see for themselves the talent and drive of disabled people.

"This isn't just about doing what's right, it's about recognising that diverse workplaces are stronger workplaces and that means more dynamic and stronger businesses to drive forward our economic growth."

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