GLOUCESTERSHIRE County Council has been revealed as the first local authority in the national Disability Confident campaign.

Launched by the Prime Minister last year, the initiative aims to help businesses take a more proactive approach to employing disabled people.

The county council joins a number of organisations working as campaign partners, including Barclays Bank and KPMG.

About 60,000 people in Gloucestershire of working age are living with a disability, but the national employment rate for people with a disability is 47.8 per cent compared to an 75.9 per cent average.

The campaign hopes to develop businesses’ knowledge about disabilities to help them better understand the needs of disabled people, both when first employing someone new through to a member of staff becoming ill or disabled.

Kathy Williams, cabinet member with responsibility for disabilities, said, “We are passionate about helping people with disabilities gain employment because of the real difference it makes to people’s lives and the benefits it can bring to local business.

“Being selected as the first local authority partner for this national campaign is a real feather in our cap.”

MP Mike Penning, minister of state for disabled people, said: “Research shows that more disabled jobseekers cite employers' attitudes as a barrier to work than transport, which is why we've arranged the first ever national road show to support employers to become more confident about hiring disabled people.

"One in five of us have a disability and doing more to employ disabled people and provide services for them could help businesses tap into the £80bn purple pound - and I want businesses in the west of England to do just that.”

Over the next few months the county council will be promoting the Disability Confident campaign with businesses locally to help support the national campaign.