Tag Archives: employment

Tell the Government what you think about support in and out of work

Yesterday the Government launched “Improving Lives”, a consultation on proposals around disability, health and work.

We know that disabled people are twice as likely as the general public to be unemployed and just 48 per cent of disabled people are in work, compared to 80 per cent of the wider population.

The difference between the two rates, known as the disability employment gap, has stood at roughly the same level for more than a decade.

We have been calling on the Government to deliver on its commitment to halve the disability employment gap, and to deliver a strategy that tackles the barriers disabled people face in and out of work.

Today, the Government have published some proposals on how to address this. The question is will these proposals translate to meaningful legislative and policy change?

What is “Improving Lives”?

Improving Lives is a Green Paper, which essentially means the Government wants to find out about and discuss an issue with the public before deciding on any action.

Improving Lives is a document about improving the support available to disabled people in and out of work.  The Government are looking at the following areas:

  • The support people need to get into work
  • The support working disabled people might need
  • Assessments for out of work benefits and employment support
  • The role of employers in recruiting and supporting disabled employees
  • Health and care for people both in and out of work

You can read Improving Lives in full on the Government website.  It’s also available in in easy read,  BSL, audio and braille formats.

The consultation is open from 31 October 2016 until Friday 17 February 2017.

A young disabled women using a computer
Mima, who took part in our First Impressions, First Experiences employment scheme

What do we think about the Green Paper?

It’s right that the Government is consulting on support for disabled people in and out of work. We welcome some proposals, including working more closely with employers, challenging attitudes and halving the disability employment gap.

However, we’re concerned that the Government is considering extending requirements to look for jobs and attend employment programmes to people in the support group of ESA.

Not every disabled person should be expected to work, and everyone’s contribution to society should be recognised regardless of whether they work or not.

We want to see specialist employment support made available to all disabled people who want to work, for this to be voluntary, and for it to not impact on any financial support.

We’re also concerned about previous decisions to take £30 a week from new claimants placed in the WRAG group. Reducing disabled people’s incomes won’t incentivise people to find a job. It will just make life harder. We’ll be urging government to rethink this cut, as part of our response to the Green Paper published yesterday.

The paper sets out some important questions about reform to the fit for work test, accessing employment support and making workplaces more inclusive.

However, this document is just the first step. At Scope we want to see meaningful consultation with disabled people lead to real policy, legal and attitudinal change. There remains a huge amount of work to be done to tackle the barriers disabled people face entering and staying in work. It’s vital that the whole Government now listens to disabled people’s views on how to do this.

How can I get involved?

You can respond to the consultation using the Department of Health Consultation Hub website.

If you would prefer, you can respond by email: workandhealth@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

Or by post:

The Work, Health and Disability Consultation,
Ground Floor, Caxton House,
6-12 Tothill Street,
London,
SW1H 9NA

What is Scope going to do?

Scope will put together a response to the consultation.

As part of this, we’d like to hear from disabled people about their experiences with things like claiming ESA, taking part in employment support programmes and getting support while at work.

We’ll put out more information on how to get involved over the coming weeks, but in the meantime if you’d like to get involved please contact Mel Wilkes, a Policy Adviser on melanie.wilkes@scope.org.uk

I used to hide my autism from employers, now I see it as a positive – End the Awkward

Felix took part in First Impressions, First Experiences, a pre-employment course for young disabled jobseekers. Since then he’s been working hard to reach his goals and he’s passionate about changing employers’ attitudes towards disability. 

For End the Awkward, Felix talks about how he learned to see disability in a positive light and why employers need to do the same.

Before I joined Scope’s pre-employment programme, I was working for a firm in East London. Unfortunately it didn’t go according to plan and I realised that, while my autism can’t be ignored, it isn’t something that I should be ashamed of.

Now I talk about disability in a positive light

In the past, I wouldn’t have disclosed my autism to potential employers, but Scope’s pre-employment programme taught me how to talk about it in a positive way. Now I do talk about autism and those who I’ve worked with have seen it in a positive light. Instead of just seeing autism as a negative, I’ve shown that there are many positives as well.

I think there are two ways to improve inclusiveness in the workplace. The first thing is for employers to be educated about disability, but another way is for potential candidates, who are disabled, to strike up the confidence to say “This is my condition, this is why I need support”. I’ve also learned to highlight the positives that I can bring to the workplace so that potential employers don’t feel the need to question my abilities.

Employers shouldn’t hide from disability

I read an article about how 49 per cent of companies don’t want to hire someone who has learning difficulties and that affected me because I’m part of that demographic. And unfortunately, it said further on in the article that only 7% of people with learning difficulties are in employment which means that 93% have been forgotten about.

Workplaces can be more autism friendly by being patient when it comes to communication, reinforcing boundaries regarding employee relations, and if there is an incident where the individual is anxious then it would be best to find to out why. They should acknowledge that autistic people have skills and see how those skills could be best utilised by the organisation.

Felix laughing with a friend

Education is key

I discovered that two thirds of the public are still uncomfortable with people with disabilities, and that’s very clear in terms of employment and in terms of social life. There’s a long way to go to improve attitudes and awareness.

I feel like there’s a lack of diversity regarding the public image of disabled people. When people think of a disabled person they usually think of somebody who’s using a wheelchair. But it’s so much more.

People need to be educated about what cerebral palsy is, about what autism is, how they can make adaptations, and so on. Education is key so that employers know how to support that person’s needs. You could have a positive mindset but if the work environment isn’t supportive, it can go downhill from there.

Everybody brings something new to the table

I think that awareness campaigns like End the Awkward can have an impact on employers and on the wider public. Disability is a broad spectrum. Just because someone is disabled, doesn’t automatically mean they can’t do something.

You can’t compare yourself to everybody else. Can you imagine how bland and boring the world would be if everybody was the same? Everybody brings something new to the table. My achievements are a testament to how disability doesn’t have to be a barrier to having a good life. It’s time other people realised that.

You can stay up to date with everything End the Awkward on Twitter and Facebook using #EndTheAwkward or visiting Scope’s End the Awkward webpage.

Halving the disability employment gap – a plan for the future

Ahead of Conservative Party Conference this week, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Damian Green announced the Government is to stop Work Capability Reassessments for people with long term conditions.

This will be welcome news for some disabled people and it’s a step in the right direction that the Assessment needs reforming. However, we believe this needs to be part of a wider package of improvement from the Government if it is going to achieve the bold ambition of halving the disability employment gap by 2020.

The Government has announced it will be publishing a green paper shortly on how it will enable more disabled people and those with long term conditions to get and stay in work.

Our hopes for the Government’s green paper

We think this must present a coherent and achievable plan, which needs to work across the different areas of work, and address the barriers and disadvantages disabled people face getting in and staying work.

Ahead of Damian Green’s speech to the Conservative Conference today, we’ve set out five areas we believe the green paper should cover if we’re to halve the disability employment gap by 2020, enabled those who can work find a job that suits them and, ensure that when disabled people are in work they are able to thrive:

  • Reporting progress towards halving the disability employment gap
  • Best practice for employer
  • Reforming the Work Capability Assessment
  • Specialist employment support
  • Improving and innovating support for working disabled people

We believe that a detailed reporting system, breaking down employment rates by area and impairment will help make sure that barriers to employment are identified. This will also support the Government to understand what is working.

We hope that the green paper also looks the important role businesses play and encourage employers to create modern flexible workplaces where all staff are supported to achieve their potential. 85 per cent of disabled people do not think employers’ attitudes have changed over the last four years.

Whilst some employers are leading the way on disability employment, there are over 5.4m businesses in the UK who we need to spur to take action, and need the support to do it.

Supporting disabled people into work

We also believe the Government should go further on the Work Capability Assessment and start a conversation with disabled people on the wholesale reform of the fitness-for-work test.

Disabled people are pushing hard to get jobs, but still face many barriers to find work and thrive in employment which aren’t included. The test should be the first step to identifying those barriers so the right support can be put in place to help people get back to work.

Access to specialist employment should also be widened and offered on a flexible and voluntary basis. Work Choice, a specialist support programme for disabled people which is voluntary, has delivered much better results for disabled people than the mandatory Work Programme.

Finally, we believe there needs to be reform to in-work support. Fluctuations in a physical or mental health condition can mean extended periods of time away or on sick leave, and too often this leads to people having to stop working completely. The green paper should set out innovative and improved support for working disabled people and, vital in work support schemes such as Access to Work should be promoted more widely.

Over the coming months Scope will be speaking to Government and parliamentarians of all parties about the changes we think are needed to halve the employment gap, improve employer attitudes and make sure disabled people have the same employment opportunities are everyone else.

Read the rest of our blogs on halving the disability employment gap and read our response to Damian Green’s speech.

“I want to make the extraordinary seem ordinary” – disability and employment

At a fringe event at the recent Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, organised by Scope and the Fabian Society, senior Labour Party parliamentarians, policy experts and disabled people shared their experiences of employment. The group considered how to ensure disabled people played a key role in the changing world of work.

The panel consisted of Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Debbie Abrahams MP, Neil Coyle MP, General Secretary of the Fabian Society Andy Harrop, Scope’s Head of Policy, Research and Public Affairs Anna Bird and Lauren Pitt.

In this blog Lauren talks about her experiences of employment and her thoughts following the panel event.

I lost my sight at the age of 13. When I graduated from university in 2015, I began what turned out to be a long and difficult job hunt. I applied for over 250 jobs but despite being qualified, I only got interviews about 5% of the time. The interviews were generally very negative about my disability. They’d ask “How are you going to be able to do this job?” and I would think “Well I can, otherwise I wouldn’t have applied” but it’s difficult if you’re not being given the chance.

“In phone interviews, when I mentioned that I was disabled their attitudes changed. Potential employers were suddenly less interested in what I had to say.” – Lauren, in her opening speech

I eventually got offered a job and I’m really enjoying it.  When Scope invited me to speak at this event, I immediately said yes. For me, none of the process of getting into work was easy. I came because I wanted to make that process easier for other people. I’m keen to change attitudes towards disability in the workplace and by sharing my story, I want to help disabled people have the confidence to get jobs.

I want to make the extraordinary seem ordinary

People think it’s extraordinary that disabled people work but I want to make the extraordinary seem ordinary. We want to contribute to our communities as much as an able-bodied person. We have no reason not to be and we shouldn’t be stopped from doing that.

Employers may see disabled people as having certain disadvantages, but those disadvantages can actually be very advantageous. We have to be problem solvers, we’re determined, resilient and we want to work.

A massive barrier is people’s attitudes. People see us in the Paralympics and think “oh look at that blind person running” but we can do so many other things. People need to see the variety of jobs that disabled people are in.

The panel sit behind a white table in front of a screen that reads "An inclusive future"

Policies and support need to be better

At the Job Centre, there was the assumption that I only wanted part-time work. Well, no. I might be disabled but I can still work full time. I want to contribute as much as anyone else and I can.

Information about the support available also needs to be better. Technology is essential in supporting me to do my job as well as anyone else can and that’s provided by Access to Work. But it took four weeks after my assessment for my equipment to arrive – four weeks where I wasn’t able to do my job. Also, research done by Scope showed that around half of people said they don’t know about Access to Work or don’t know how to get it. Well, that needs to change. Without Access to Work, there’s no way I could do my job.

Stories show people what’s possible

We need to share success stories and use them to show disabled people and employers that disability doesn’t have to be a barrier. Stories change people’s minds. Scope’s End the Awkward campaign has changed people’s minds already – people often talk to me about it. By seeing disabled people doing things, you believe that it’s possible.

It’s also important that disabled people believe in themselves. When you see others succeeding, you think “Maybe I can do that”. Commonly more negative stories are shared and people see those and think it’s not going to happen. I know towards the end of my job hunt I wanted to give up. I just didn’t think I was ever going to get a job. I knew I could do it but by the end it was like “Can I?”

A massive thing for disabled people is confidence. The world is not an easy place to live if you’re disabled – you’re faced with barriers left, right and centre. But there are also ways to overcome those barriers. And it’s about learning those ways and being given the right support. You get ground down by applying for jobs and not getting anywhere.

Lauren crouching down with her guide dog, both wearing robes at her graduation ceremony
Lauren and her guide dog at her graduation ceremony

Sharing knowledge is really important

Another thing I would love to see would be the option to have a mentor – either another people who is disabled and currently in work or an employer. Sharing experience is a massive thing because it builds up that self confidence and that knowledge. You’re not going to learn something unless you’ve got someone showing you. I want everyone to see that disabled people can work just like everyone else. My line manager went for an interview and said that she worked with someone who’s blind and they were like “How?” and she was liked “Well, like this…” and that’s the thing, it’s a transfer of knowledge.

I also think it’s important to educate people when they’re young, which is something Scope are doing at the moment, with their Role Models programme. The more people see at a younger age, the better their attitudes will be. Sometimes older people say it’s amazing that I’m working – well, it’s not really that amazing and they wouldn’t say that to my brother, who’s sighted.

Working together to change the future of employment

Today was great. Everyone on the panel spoke about the many things that can be done to help disabled people find and stay in work. We also spoke about things that aren’t being done that should be – some things that can easily be implemented and other things that may be more difficult and how funds can be better used.

I really enjoyed having this opportunity to talk to disabled people, politicians and people who worked for different charities, all of us coming together to share the knowledge and ideas that we have, to help change the future for disabled people in employment.

Scope has partnered with the Fabian Society to produce a series of essays that look at how the modern and future world of work can be inclusive for disabled people.

To read more about Lauren’s journey into work, read her previous blog.

If you have an employment story you would like to share, get in touch with the Stories team.

My job at Goldman Sachs is a holiday compared to the pressure of the Paralympics

Five-time gold medallist Sophie Christiansen is competing in her fourth Paralympic Games this summer. The equestrian won three of her gold medals at London 2012 with her horse Janeiro 6 so expectations for Rio are high.

In this guest blog post, Sophie, who has cerebral palsy, talks about witnessing first-hand the growth of the Paralympic movement and how she handles the pressures of competing at a top level.

My family isn’t at all horsey. I don’t think I would ever have ridden if I hadn’t been disabled.

I started riding when I was six with the Riding for the Disabled Association to improve my coordination. When I was about 13 I found out about dressage and I was hooked. When I’m on a horse I can forget about my disability and I can compete on a level playing field with other disabled people.

The riding school where I learnt dressage, South Bucks RDA, had a history of training Paralympians so they were looking out for talent from the start.

Being selected for Athens in 2004, aged 16, was incredible. I was ParalympicGB’s youngest athlete. I learnt such a lot from that first experience of the games.

To be selected for my fourth Paralympics this year is a huge honour. I’m only 28, but I’m seen as a Paralympic veteran!

Changing attitudes

The Games have changed so much since my first time in Athens. The standard is so high and there is a lot more interest.

We’d be used to competing in front of 200 people – that would be a big crowd – but then in London there were 10,000.

In Beijing there was a lot of interest from the public and we attracted a really big audience. But there was so little media coverage. I won my first Paralympic gold medals and it hardly got a mention.

I think attitudes have changed. There was a lot expected of London in terms of changing perceptions and I think it did achieve it, to a certain extent. It showed disabled people achieving some amazing things and I think people who aren’t disabled were inspired by what we could do.

But I know a lot of disabled people felt it did not represent them and I totally understand that. It’s why I make it my mission to talk about my life outside sport, about the barriers that still exist in society, whenever possible.

Road to Rio

I’m really looking forward to Rio and I hope people get behind us. It will be a shame if they don’t manage to sell tickets and the stadiums are empty. But as an athlete, you just have to get on with it and focus on your event.

It would be great to see more coverage of disability sports. At the moment there’s the Paralympics every four years and then nothing in between. I think it would help disabled athletes get more sponsorship and make disabled people more visible. If people can’t see disabled people, they just don’t exist.

Relaxing with maths

I work as an analyst at the investment bank Goldman Sachs in the technology department. This might sounds funny, but I see my job as like a holiday from the highly pressurised atmosphere of Paralympic sport.

I’ve always had a logical brain and I love maths.

They’ve created the perfect role for me, which fits around my impairment and my sport commitments. I know it’ll be hard for me to progress in my career while I’m doing dressage, which is frustrating. But everyone I work with is so understanding. It would help support a lot more disabled people into work if more employers were as creative and flexible with roles as mine.

When training in a Paralympic year, it’s about knowing how to balance training with fatigue. It’s difficult because I’m a workaholic, I’m always working. That’s my biggest challenge, knowing when to stop.

Pushing myself outside my comfort zone is how I’ve always lived my life. I never thought I’d have a job in London. I enjoy the independence it gives me and it enables me to pursue dressage.

DSC02989

We’ve published the findings of a new poll which asked disabled people whether the Paralympics can change attitudes to disability and asked what life is like if you’re disabled in 2016. Read more about our Parlympics survey

Visit the ParalympicsGB website for more information.

“All I really wanted was to work, so I could be independent.”

Harrison is just one of thousands of young disabled adults who have struggled to find work. Here he explains about the barriers he faced on his journey to permanent employment. Donate today and support our work with young disabled people.

Have you ever felt really let down? Like there’s no hope? A year ago, that was me. Like so many disabled people, I was constantly being overlooked by potential employers. I kept applying and applying for work. But I kept missing out. At first I didn’t let it get to me. But after a while I got so stressed. I started to think there was no point.

“Employers judged me, without finding out what I could do”

I’ve always been a people person. I’m not shy, I like talking and I’m good at understanding people. I love the theatre and have done some acting and backstage work. So I knew I had lots of skills to offer. But, when employers found out about my learning disability they judged me, without first finding out what I can do. I even started one job, but they let me go with no warning. I didn’t believe in myself at all. I felt really down and useless.

Harrison with his employment advisor, Jo.

Everything changed for me when I met Jo from Scope. She encouraged me to join a work programme where I learnt about everything from how to tell an employer about my impairment to time management skills.

“When I finally got an interview with Morrisons I was so nervous”

I worked on a new CV and learnt how to fill in application forms. My confidence was really low because I’d been rejected for so many jobs. But the support I got made me realise that there are many jobs I can do, which helped improve my confidence a lot.

When I finally got an interview with Morrisons I was so nervous but I had a lot of help with my preparations. I practised and practised answering questions. When the interview day came, I remembered what I was told. And I got the job! I was so happy and excited, I couldn’t wait to tell everyone I knew. The support I got helped me get my job at Morrisons. With your help, other young people can get the right support too, and show employers what they can do.

Harrison working on the checkout at Morrisons.

“My life changed because of the support I had”

I’ve been working at Morrisons for 10 months now. My supervisor helps me remember the things I need to ask customers, like if they have a loyalty card. He says I’ve taken to customer service like a duck to water. I know they want me to succeed here because they do everything they can to support me.

Now I’m earning my own money, I’m saving up to move out from my parents’ house into my own place. It’s great that I can see a future where that happens. I want all employers to be as supportive as mine. My life has changed because of the support I had and now every day when I go to work I feel confident and independent!

Harrison’s story shows how with the right support a young disabled person can get a new start and chance to achieve their dreams.

Donate today and help disabled people like Harrison get in to permanent, sustainable employment.

With your support we can make sure disabled people can get the right support, and show employers what they can do.

My role on Holby City helps change attitudes about autism – Jules

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This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Jules is an actor and a regular on Holby City. He also happens to have Asperger syndrome, which is a form of autism.

As part of 30 Under 30, we chatted to him about acting, attitudes and how Access All Areas helped him break into the industry.

My love of acting came from watching a lot of Steve Martin movies which made me feel really good. I also loved going to the theatre and the cinema. I watched lots of films and always thought I’d like to do something like that. Acting made me feel good about myself. I think that really inspired me.

I did a course through Access All Areas, who also now act as my agent. I made some good friends during that time and it was a really good experience because it helped my acting. I improved so much. It meant I could get to the next level.

Landing a role on Holby City

I got an audition thanks to Access All Areas who also now act as my agent. I was fabulous (as always!) and I passed the audition with flying colours. It was very challenging at the beginning because I was walking into something completely new. As the months went on I became comfortable and settled in well and I actually really like it now. I think I’ve come a long way in the last year. I always jump out of bed with enthusiasm, even though I’m leaving at half 6 in the morning.

I play Jason Haynes. He has a different type of Asperger’s to myself. I think he’s a lot geekier than I am. He’s a very nice man but he lacks confidence. I feel like I’m playing a completely different person. That’s why it’s interesting. It’s really fun on set with the cast and crew. It’s a long day but it’s good. I always feel very proud of myself at the end of the day. I feel like I’ve tried my best and done a good job. I like that lots of parents with autistic children have enjoyed it. It’s a great thing that I’ve been able to do.

Jules, a young disabled man, plays a character smiling and lying in a hospital bed on Holby City

I hope attitudes in the industry get better

There was a point where I was very frustrated with the industry because I was seeing all these films that had a character with autism and it was so often played by a neuro-typical person. In Rain Man and Black Balloon, for example, the actors in those two films don’t have the condition. It’s frustrating that directors and producers don’t do enough research because there are people out there with the conditions that can play these parts.

It’s important for disabled actors to play disabled characters, and I think they can play characters who don’t have a condition too. I want the industry to be a little bit more understanding and to not ignore autistic talent like it has done for far too long. I would say it’s improving now but it could get a lot better.

I think it’s really good that shows like Holby City are starting to look into diversity more. When I first started I saw one negative comment on Facebook, someone who followed the show who didn’t understand Asperger’s. But everyone else has been really supportive.

It’s great to have role models

Steve Martin, John Travolta and Morgan Freeman are some of my favourite actors, and Kevin Spacey, Tim Robbins, Jeff Bridges – I’ve got lots. Jim Carrey as well. All these people make me so excited to be an actor and it’s really great to have these role models because I happen to think that actors and comedians are the best people in the world.

I hope that I’m seen as a role model. I hope that I’m encouraging people with other conditions or people who are on the spectrum and have autism or mild learning difficulties. If they watch me on Holby City I hope I’m showing them that it can happen for them and they shouldn’t lose faith and hope. I’m sure they can do it if they put their mind to it.

I think that I’ve done a good job at making people more aware of autism and making it relevant in the acting world. I’m showing that if people with autism want to do this kind of work they can, and it’s not impossible.

My advice for other young disabled actors

Keep a positive frame of mind and try your best. Of course there will be hard times but you’ll get through it. Try your very best to get where you want to go. Sometimes it doesn’t work out the way you want but maybe it just takes time.

Holby City has been the highlight of my career. It’s a very rewarding job and I’m hoping that it will lead to other work in the future. It’s been my first big break really. I’d love to do movies here and in America, more TV and theatre. I’d like to do a whole variety of things.

Jules is sharing his story as part of 30 Under 30. We are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Keep up to date with all of our new stories on our 30 under 30 page.

Recruiting personal assistants means I can live my life how I want to – Nadia

Nadia is 24 and lives in West Yorkshire. She’s a student and a campaigner with Scope for Change – Scope’s training programme for young disabled campaigners. Nadia employers her own personal assistants and last year, she won an Employer of the Year award.

She told us what this meant to her, what she looks for in her employees and how they support her to live a busy, independent life.

I’m profoundly deaf and I have cerebral palsy. To communicate, I use a communication aid called DynaVox. I can also sign British Sign Language but my body physically limits my signing. I’ve been employing personal assistants with the help of my family since I was eight years old. I started off with two or three and now manage a team of eight, as well as one volunteer and a communication support worker.

With support from my team, I can enjoy a busy life

I volunteer at a college and I like to meet friends, go to concerts, festivals, weekends away, travel and go for cocktails. I also need support to go to conferences, events and college. My team help me to be independent. For example, I’m planning a backpacking trip around Europe. They also help with everyday life including personal care, showers, writing and communicating, feeding and dressing me. All of these responsibilities are done respecting my autonomy.

I like to recruit personal assistants myself

I find staff through advertising on the internet. I also use Facebook groups, Twitter, Gumtree, the deaf community and students learning sign language.

I’m often pre-judged so I feel it’s better to meet people myself. I like to meet face to face and assess their skills. Employing my team myself, as opposed to through an agency, means I can plan my life how I want. If I want to socialise until 2am, I can arrange it. If I plan something that others may think is impossible, I have a fantastic team that will work with me to make it possible.

I look for people with similar interests, open personalities and honesty. I welcome diversity. I like people with skills in deaf awareness, signing and good receptive body language. I also need people who understand my thoughts and how I process language, someone with a good sense of humour, who can think quickly if problems arise. My team have supported me at the best times, but also at some of my worst times.

Working together with my team, we get to know each other well. I support my team emotionally, with advice and through training. I also plan nights out which my team are welcome to join and this builds relationships.

Nadia on a night out with a group of female friends all smiling

I’ve had moments I will always remember

In 2015 I visited London. I was going to the Houses of Parliament to give a speech with Trailblazers. Afterwards, we were at St Pancras station and there was a man playing the piano. He was an old Italian man and he sang a song called ‘That’s Amore’. My personal assistant, Sam, signed and I danced with my electric wheelchair. We were in the middle of the train station. I felt so happy and free.

Then we went to King’s Cross Station and I saw what looked like a big birdcage lit up with different colours. We went to have a look and saw that it was a swing. I told Sam to go on it and she said “No, you get on it!”. I felt safe so I agreed. She got me on the swing and held me while pushing. I felt excited and it was so different. Every day I’m sat in my wheelchair. I felt air on my legs while I was swinging and I laughed so much. I will always remember that experience.

I was so proud to win an award

This year I was nominated for an award – “Best individual employer who employs their own care and support staff”. The event organisers were Skills for Care. On the night of the awards I had a headache, felt so sick and I wanted to go to bed. My clinical support worker persuaded me to stay for the results. When they announced that I had won, I was surprised, happy and proud.

If you have a story you would like to share, get in touch with Scope’s Stories team.

 

Why Chris is re-creating some of the worst things he’s experienced

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This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Chris Amor is a 27-year-old university student, studying animation. Chris has dwarfism and experiences regular harassment, making him feel excluded and dehumanised.

As part of 30 Under 30 he talks to us about challenging attitudes and putting height discrimination on the same level as other forms of discrimination. Currently, he’s working on a short animated film which aims to do exactly that.

Attitudes can be a barrier

A lot of people still think it’s socially acceptable to mock and effectively dehumanise people with dwarfism. For me, the physical side doesn’t get me down, it’s the attitudes that other people have towards it. There’s still a big stigma around dwarfism and the way we’re portrayed as freaks.

People can also be scared to talk to me because they think I’ll be easily offended. I’d just prefer people to talk to me like anyone else, not focus on my dwarfism, just treat me like a person. I don’t want people feeling sorry for me either. I just want people to not care about how tall someone is. It doesn’t define who you are, at all.

Dating is another big thing that gets to me. There’s still a big stigma about men being shorter than women or couples with extreme height difference. People tell me I should date another person with dwarfism. Again, it’s dehumanising. It’s putting body before personality. Of course I’d be happy to date a person with dwarfism, but I want to date someone for who they are not just how they look. Why should it matter if the woman is taller?

Chris sitting in front of a brick wall, with his arms folded
Photo credit: Paul Jackson, Worcester News

Experiencing harassment at work

I’ve worked at a local pub for a few years. At first, I mostly did night shifts and of course people are drinking, and I was specifically targeted. I’ve had people run up behind me and try to pick me up, people patting me on the head, talking to me randomly about really personal and inappropriate things. People even take photos or secretly film me, purely just to portray me as being different.

It got to a point where I had a breakdown and told my family and my managers at work about it. They were very understanding and agreed that I should do more day shifts instead. It’s a lot better. And it’s nice to be able to just get on with your job without constantly feeling paranoid.

The effect of endless harassment

Endless harassment can create paranoia. You just constantly feel paranoid if there’s someone behind you or if someone’s got their phone out, are they going to take a photo of me? And it’s the principle behind it – that they’re going to share it on social media as a joke.

Because I’ve being experiencing it for a long time it can be difficult when I’m in certain environments not to be too self-conscious. For some people, it can lead to depression and even suicide. Comments and insults can be more damaging that physical assault, certainly for me – it’s just that concept of feeling excluded from society. And it also affects my confidence when it comes to working and dating.

I’m making a film to raise awareness

A lot of films about disabled people and their lives are focused on the physical or mental restrictions that they have but my film is purely focused on the attitudes of others. Through animation, I’m re-creating some of the worst things that I’ve personally experienced and things that other people have told me, exactly from that person’s perspective. Some people might see these things as just a little joke and say you lack a sense of humour, but it’s not about that. I’m happy to have the piss taken out of me for how I am as a person, not because of how I was born.

I hope the film will raise awareness and change perceptions. I want to put heightism on the same grounds of unacceptance that racism is. And I want to challenge the dehumanising ideas about what you shouldn’t and shouldn’t do – like disabled people shouldn’t be in a relationship with a non-disabled person or you can’t do this job.

Chris arms folded, in front of a garden
Photo credit: Paul Jackson, Worcester News

How we can change attitudes

I think a lot of it’s to do with media representation. Peter Dinklage, from Game of Thrones, is one of the few actors with dwarfism who plays a role that’s not related to his height. Some of the earlier roles for people with dwarfism like Willow and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, they were picked for those roles because of how they look. It gives them a label and a separation in that sense. I’m not saying that actors with dwarfism can’t play those kinds of roles, but height shouldn’t limit what they can and can’t do.

I also think education is key to changing attitudes. When my film is finished, I want to send it to some film festivals and make sure it’s spread nationwide. It’s not about feeling sorry for someone. It’s about encouraging people to think “How would I feel if I was in that body and was being treated differently because of something I can’t help?”. One day I hope I can walk down the street and nobody cares about my height.

Chris is sharing his story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. We are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Keep up to date with all of our new stories on our 30 under 30 page.

 

“Be a bit brave, take part and go for it.” Jack, the volunteering star

30 under 30 logo

This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

This Volunteers’ Week, we spoke to one of our volunteering and Scope for Change stars, Jack Welch, who gives much of his time to a number of different charities.

As part of 30 Under 30, he talks about how volunteering has benefited him. Several of the organisations he has volunteered for have also sent in some glowing testimonials.

Volunteering is a way to explore new opportunities and different ways of working. You can also meet new people and develop your networks. It’s the variety that’s always the most exciting!

I think there is a lot out there for people to get stuck into. Volunteering for charities doesn’t just mean volunteering in a charity shop – there are loads of different things you can do.

For me, volunteering has helped me to build on social skills, communicate with others and be a bit more independent. You really develop that over time. Although it’s volunteering, there’s an expectation of having a skillset that you need to commit yourself to.

Jack, a young disabled man, smiles and talks to a room

It gave me the opportunity to move away from some of the troubles I had at secondary school. I’m not as anxious as I used to be. It’s been great to have a bit more independence away from home and the family. I’ve really expanded and broadened my networks beyond the safety of my closest relatives.

It’s really changed me. Five or six years ago, the thought of using public transport would have terrified me but now it’s just second nature. I travel quite a lot for my volunteering.

For someone thinking about volunteering, I would say go for it. If you spot something that might develop your skill set, help you move into employment or meet new people, get involved!

Be a bit brave, take part and go for it.

Testimonials for Jack

Jack has left a lasting impression at all of the charities and organisations he has worked for.  Below are just a handful of the glowing testimonials given to us by some of these organisations.

Jessica Benham, Outreach Officer for Holocaust Memorial Day Trust

“Jack has been working with the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust for four years. He has attended workshops, engaged with Holocaust survivors and raised awareness about the Holocaust and subsequent genocides amongst his peers. Jack has been an exceptional member of the Youth Champion Board, contributing to the development of the Youth Champion programme to ensure that people aged 14-24 are empowered to hold their own activities for Holocaust Memorial Day.”

Find out more about Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

Dave Thompson, the Director of Dorset Youth Association

“We first met Jack many years ago as a quiet and shy young man.

Through the years we have seen him develop and grow as he has become involved in more and more community projects. Jack was heavily involved in our Young Remembers project which looked at the History of Dorset Youth Association (DYA) over 70 years. Jack and his peers were so passionate about their heritage and wished to continue to meet as a group to volunteer. Therefore staff at DYA attracted new monies to support the group in a major fundraising initiative. This investment attracted almost £40,000 and led to a new youth led project Walking in their Shoes.

Jack is always polite and pleased to volunteer his time to help others.”

Find out more about Dorset Youth Association.

Amber DeRosa, Participation Officer at the National Children’s Bureau

“Jack has been an active member of Young National Children’s Bureau (YNCB) since 2015. During this time, he has been actively engaged in a range of activities and events including speaking at conferences, debates and meetings, campaigning work and taking part in various discussion groups and consultations.

Jack is a delightful young person to work with. He continually makes valued and thoughtful contributions to NCB’s various programmes of work and through this he genuinely makes a big difference to the lives of other children and young people. He is hugely reliable and very dedicated to the activities which he volunteers to be a part of and is extremely popular across all of NCB!”

Find out more about National Children’s Bureau.

Harris Lorie, Programme Manager for Spirit of 2012

“Jack has been a highly committed and valued member of Spirit of 2012’s Youth Advisory Panel (YAP). His contributions in our meetings are measured and thoughtful, drawing on a wide range of experience. He has assessed grant applications sensitively, impressing both other YAP members and the Spirit staff team. Jack volunteers enthusiastically for opportunities that come up, be that visits to our projects or attending a national gathering of youth panels. He always represents Spirit professionally, and creates great communications material for us as well. Thank you Jack!”

Find out more about Spirit of 2012.

Jack, a young disabled man, stands next to a banner which says "Volunteering matters to young people. 96% of volunteers feel better prepared for employment"

Jack is sharing his story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. We are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Catch up on all the stories so far on our 30 Under 30 page.

If you’ve been inspired by Jack, take a look at our volunteering opportunities.