Page 5: Disability
Disability has become a key component of Abbey National’s community initiatives, particularly in relation to access, both physical and intellectual, to the educational, employment and recreational opportunities of the able bodied world. The Abbey National Charitable Trust’s commitment to disability issues is reflected in recent donations to these projects:
- building ramps to improve wheelchair access to buildings at Nottingham University, as well as setting up special facilities for students with sight impairment using the university’s law library
- providing transportation for children with physical and learning disabilities to enable them to take part in the Buddies Club Play Scheme in Glasgow
- the Jubilee Sailing Trust, which encourages integration between able-bodied and disabled people through sharing the challenge of crewing a tall ship at sea
- the Adapt Trust, which works to ensure disabled people have access to arts and heritage venues.
An important part of Abbey National’s current community involvement is to provide new employment opportunities to individuals who might otherwise have lost out. Abbey National has supported the current government in its ‘Welfare to Work’ scheme which aims to move young people from a dependence on welfare benefits to real jobs. Gordon Brown initially presented the idea of Welfare to Work to Abbey National and other top UK companies in June 1997. Abbey National recognised the opportunity this presented - having job vacancies to fill while the government had people on benefit ready to fill them. Abbey National therefore looked for ways of giving the unemployed an advantage in the recruitment process. Abbey National wanted young, motivated people who had been unlucky in the past, but who could make real contributions to the company.
Abbey National’s programme, Step Up to Work, provides 18 to 24 year olds who have been unemployed for six months or more with a six-week training course, followed by placement in head office jobs. The programme has been implemented in Milton Keynes and Bradford - two of Abbey National’s largest head office sites - and has achieved a 100% success rate, with all participants successfully completing the training and being placed in established jobs.
The Employment Service played a key role in identifying candidates and ensuring that they met certain basic numeracy and literacy standards. Abbey National feels that this programme provides a valuable model of government and business working together in the employment field to secure objectives which benefit the whole community.