Becca runs a self-directed group for disabled young people moving into adult services in Ipswich called Progression Sessions. In this blog Becca describes her experience of independent living.
I have always strived to be as independent as possible, but it hasn’t always been straightforward. This became obvious when I finished sixth form and began to look for work. I had chosen not to go to university, because the idea of spending another 3 years listening to lectures and writing long essays had no appeal to me at all. Looking back, I was very naive in thinking it would be quick and easy.
For three years I had to visit the job centre every other week, relay to them what I had been doing to look for work, and was then sent off on my way.
Was I ever going to find a job?
Eventually, I was put on the Work Programme, which involved the same sort of treatment, with a few extra training courses to attend. I went to many interviews, but nothing ever came from them, and I was starting to get anxious. Was I ever going to find a job? What was wrong with me? How was I going to change? Then there was my worst fear: what if my disability was the problem?
To keep busy (and build up my CV), I volunteered at charity shops and a local media centre, where I wrote film reviews for their magazine. Meanwhile, my friends were at uni, seemingly having a great time partying and studying subjects they loved in new places outside of home. Of course I was immensely proud of them, but I couldn’t shake how isolated I felt in my little, unemployed bubble.
“It was such a relief to finally feel like I was being listened to and, most importantly, supported.”
In 2013 I volunteered for a local disability charity writing blog posts for their e-newsletter every week. The people I worked with were lovely, and I began to feel like I could be useful to society after all. One of my colleagues recognised that the Work Programme wasn’t helping me, and after all the paperwork was sorted out, I began receiving support from a local social enterprise. It was such a relief to finally feel like I was being listened to and, most importantly, supported.
I began a 12 month apprenticeship at the charity I had been volunteering at and undertook a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) in business administration.
The need for better support
Through this experience, I recognised a need for better support for disabled people with independent living, particularly employment. I was also keen to know if anyone else felt as let down by career advisors as I did. Now that my friends were leaving university, it was clear I wasn’t alone in this feeling at all. It’s paramount that support services realise that the support needs of young disabled people can be very different to those of older social care users. However, if support services do not take this into account it can really affect our ability to live independently.
Find out more about young disabled people’s experiences of living independently. Read our new research report, Leading my life my way.