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Jonathan Andrews: The simple economic truth

Jonathan Andrews: The simple economic truth

It's smart to give disabled people a chance

As he begins his year as a Queen's Young Leader, Jonathan Andrews reflects on his work and his message to the world – that employers lose out when they don't give disabled people a chance.

I found out I’d been named as a Queen’s Young Leader in rather unusual circumstances. It was the morning after I’d won European Campaigner of the Year – an award I never thought I had a hope of winning.

I was up against an Italian Cabinet Minister, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) with a combined 50+ years' experience, and Kaleidoscope Trust founder Bisi Alimi. Just happy to be on the shortlist, I was thrust on stage to speak completely unprepared!

I was also younger than any previous award winner. Yet clearly, the value of giving disabled people an equal playing field shone out to the judges, who decided age was no barrier and my work deserved recognition.

Once I’d got over the shock of that night, the experience made me more resolute to continue with my work – to use the exposure, and future skills gained via Leading Change, to expand its reach.

Getting the message out

I do a lot of hands-on mentoring with charities like Aspiring Solicitors and Ambitious about Autism. And I sit on the government’s Health and Work Advisory Board, feeding into legislative and policy changes.

But a key part of my work is messaging – putting forward why it’s smart to give disabled people a chance, backed up with robust evidence.


Jonathan at a podium with whiteboard

Jonathan Andrews raising awareness through Ambitious about Autism

I’d already presented to thousands of recruiters and business owners beforehand. With the exposure greater recognition has bestowed – including being profiled by UK press as a result of both awards – I aim to bring my message to even more.

It can’t be overstated enough that hiring disabled people is not simply "the right thing to do" or charitable, but good for business.

It’s not about quotas or positive action, but the simple economic truth that by not considering disabled people, a business is limiting its talent pool.

Attracting talent

There are many talented individuals with disabilities who could be the right person for the job. If they’re not treated seriously – or judged more harshly because they’ve disclosed a disability – the business loses out.

On top of that, it’s likely the company will have customers or clients with disabilities. But even if not, it’s inconceivable they won’t have any customers or clients with disabled friends or family members.

On the whole, they’ll be more likely to want to work with a business they know gives people a fair chance.

So as I begin my year at Cambridge, I’m eager to learn more about how I can really drill down to the key aspects of my message, in order to take my project to the next level.