With a little help, they can manage

Roger Trapp reports on a management training scheme for disabled people

James Partridge has written a book entitled Changing Faces, about his 20 years of coping with acute facial disfigurement and other people's reactions to it. Since then he has founded a charitable organisation of the same name that aims to give people like him a better future. Kate Nash suffers from arthritis and reduced mobility but has managed to work as director of Young Arthritis Care and is now business development manager for the Employers' Forum for Disability.

Both are recipients of bursaries from the Coverdale Leadership Development Programme, which earlier this week welcomed a new supporter in J Sainsbury. The announcement of the supermarket group's arrival in the consortium backing the venture was made at a reception hosted by the Midland Bank to celebrate the fifth year of the programme. Besides Midland, the existing members of the consortium are the Prince of Wales's Advisory Group on Disability, the Employers' Forum on Disability and Coverdale itself.

The scheme was launched in 1990, to give management training to disabled people such as Mr Partridge and Ms Nash who might not otherwise get the chance because of a lack of funds. This year it is offering courses to a further three people. They will be able to choose from a wide variety of management courses and also from personal training modules over two years. A personal support consultant will also be available.

Peter Harris, Coverdale chairman, says: "The scheme has been received very enthusiastically by both the business community and by people with disabilities. I'm delighted that we will be able to offer further bursaries for people to participate this year."

Also present were the Secretary of State for Employment, Ann Widdecombe, and Keith Whitson, chief executive of the Midland Bank, which has supported the Coverdale initiative since the start. It is also one of 21 leading British companies that in 1992 adopted the "Employers' Agenda", which was drawn up by the Employers' Forum on Disability and launched by the Prime Minister with the aim of providing a blueprint of best practice in this area.

Under the scheme, Midland has agreed to focus on monitoring the employment of disabled people, equality training and rehabilitation and retraining initiatives. In addition to working with Coverdale, it has supported the "Fast Track" programme, an initiative set up by Scope (formerly the Spastic Society) to provide management training to disabled high-fliers, and assisted the National Union of Students' first careers fair for disabled students.

Coverdale award-winners such as Mr Partridge and Ms Nash have the opportunity to develop management skills such as teamwork, leadership, negotiation and project management by attending short residential courses run by Coverdale and other partners in the scheme, such as Barclays Bank and the Post Office. Ms Nash sees the bursary as providing a turning point in her career by convincing her that she had something to contribute, while Mr Partridge has found it particularly useful in helping him to learn the importance of teamwork and co-operation.

Ms Nash said that she was delighted by the new addition to the consortium, since the eventual aim is to have about 12 members. "If every major employer matched Sainsbury's and Midland's commitment, imagine the possibilities."

Final selection for this year's programme takes place in midsummer, with training starting in the autumn. For further information, contact Kate Nash on 0171 403-3020.

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