BUSINESSES in Cumnock and Doon Valley are being urged to recognise the benefits of hiring people with disabilities.

A month-long campaign is underway to try and address the imbalance in disabled employment.

Only around 40 per cent of working age adults with a disability are employed compared to the over 80 per cent of those without a disability.

The campaign targets small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and aims to highlight the information and support available to them to help employ disabled people.

An internship programme for disabled people run by Inclusion Scotland will also be opened up to SMEs to create new avenues of work experience in the private sector.

Cumnock MSP and Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman said: “This important campaign seeks to dispel the myths – that employing disabled people is too costly, too difficult or will affect profitability.

The reality is disabled people have a wealth of skills and talents which are too often unnoticed or ignored.

“Disabled people should have equal access to employment opportunities and we are committed to reducing the employment gap by at least half. Their skills, hard work and commitment are valuable to any employer – and with practical and financial support available to businesses it just makes sense to recruit from the widest talent pool possible.”

Employability Minister Jamie Hepburn added: “People with disabilities already make a significant contribution to our economy, however far too many simply aren’t given the opportunity.

Businesses risk missing out on talent that can add real value to their organisations, which is an issue we must address.

“By highlighting the clear benefits of diverse recruitment practices, we believe more small business can help ensure a greater proportion of disabled people can become valued employees.

I would encourage all SMEs in Ayrshire to get involved and find out more.”