Tag Archives: employment

I feel like I’m going in the right direction – Felix’s story

Twenty-five year-old Felix, from East London, recently completed First Impressions, First Experiences, a pre-employment course for young disabled job-seekers. In this guest post for Learning Disability Week, Felix explains how employers’ attitudes need to change, and the importance of role-models for young disabled people. 

Felix blog
Felix is optimistic about his future career

When people think of disabled people they usually think of somebody who’s using a wheelchair. If they took their blinders off, they would realise that there’s so much more to it than that.

The first thing we need is for employers to be educated about disability.

But the other thing is for disabled candidates to strike up the confidence to tell the employer: “This is my condition, this is the support I need”. I feel like I can do that now.

First Impressions, First Experiences

Before I joined First Impressions, I was working for a firm in East London. It didn’t go well, and I realised that while my Asperger’s syndrome isn’t something I should be ashamed of, it’s not something I can just ignore. I needed some support.

Doing things like CVs and interviewing techniques has been very useful. I’ve learnt things I hadn’t even heard about, like how to disclose that you’re disabled in a positive way. First Impressions also set up a work placement for me in an office, and from my first day there I knew it was going to be a good experience.

I wasn’t just left in one place – I was in marketing, HR, IT and the general office, so I got the chance to experience different areas and juggle different things.

I definitely feel I could do that kind of job now – I can pick up the phone and talk appropriately, I can sort through mail, I can do admin and so on. But my ideal career option would be a job which enables young people to realise their potential.

Felix sitting at a boardroom table talking to an employment advisor
Felix talking with a Scope employment advisor

What I’ve learned over the past six months

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.

You may feel that the world doesn’t understand you, but it doesn’t mean that you have to let your life go downhill.

But you do need guidance, and this is where mentoring and ongoing support becomes handy as well.

Having role models is good too – you see someone like Nick Hamilton, the racing driver who has cerebral palsy, and you realise that what you want to do is possible, you just need to go about it the right way.

I feel that what I’ve learnt from First Impressions I can build on in the future.

I’m working towards being in employment. I’ll have to be tough, because I’m not quite where I want to be yet, but I feel like I’m going in the right direction.

Find out more about Scope’s employment programmes.

“If they give me a chance, I can prove what I can do.” – #100days100stories

Georgina, who has learning difficulties and two children, spent 15 years out of work. Support from Scope gave her the confidence to start volunteering, update her CV and prepare for interviews. Georgina shares her story as part of Scope’s 100 days, 100 stories campaign.

Georgina holding her CV
Georgina spent 15 years out of work

Last May I started working in a factory. Before that, I hadn’t worked since 1997, when I had my daughter.

I planned to go back to work when my daughter started school, but by then I was pregnant with my son, so I stayed at home with him. He has learning and behavioural problems, and it has been very difficult. It wasn’t until 2011 that I could start to look for work.

Looking for work

I have a slight learning disability, so my brain doesn’t process things as quickly as someone else’s might in certain areas. In my new job I haven’t struggled, but some things are difficult.

Since 2011 I’ve been on Jobseeker’s Allowance. I got put in touch with Scope through the disability officer at the Jobcentre in 2012. I worked with Jan, an employment advisor.

I had no references, and there was no way I was getting a job without one. Jan and I decided that we’d write me a CV and drop them in at charity shops – do some volunteer work to get a reference.

One of them, a Red Cross shop, got back to me, so I started volunteering there. It was meant to be just for a reference, but two years later I was still there! I learnt a lot, and I still go back to help out sometimes.

Georgina and Jan, Scope employment advisor, working at a laptop computer
Scope employment advisor Jan supported Georgina to update her CV and prepare for interviews

Gaining confidence

Jan would either make appointments to come into the shop to see me, or I would come to Scope’s office in Eastbourne. We would meet once a week. We did work schedules, talking about what I’d done in that week, and I did my job search.

My confidence and self-esteem weren’t that great for a long time, but it’s better now.

At the charity shop I learnt to do basically everything. The manager, Michaela, said I should apply for Assistant Manager jobs in charity shops – I have all the skills. I’m pretty good at saying, ‘Oh, I can’t do this, I can’t do that’, and then finding that I can do it after all.

Getting the job

Someone at Scope saw this job opening and said I should go for it, and Jan went with me to the interview.

I am a good hard worker, if given the chance, but if I hadn’t have been with Scope when I’d gone for that interview, I know that the shop wouldn’t have offered me the job.

Not everywhere will give me a chance. If they give me a chance, then I can prove what I can do.

If you would like to talk about employment support for disabled people, we have a recruitment advisor from the Business Disability Forum on Scope’s online community now.

Read more of our 100 stories, and find out how you can get involved in the campaign.

“Now I describe my disability as a strength” – #100days100 stories

Everything changed for 20-year-old Azar while on Scope’s pre-employment programme for young disabled people. In this guest blog, Azar shares his story as part of Scope’s 100 days, 100 stories campaign.

I have cerebral palsy, but you can’t really see it at first. That’s because I’ve been covering it so well – my whole life I’ve been covering up. The more time you spend with me, the more you figure it out.

I knew I wanted to work in business, so after I left college I was looking for a job. I just wanted experience to put on my CV, even just working in a supermarket. I remember a lot of times in my interviews I didn’t want to say that I had a disability, but they would pick up on it because of the way I speak, the way I walk.

Getting knocked back

Azar smiling and look away from the camera
Everything changed for Azar on Scope’s pre-employment programme

I applied to lots and got rejected by all of them. Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Marks and Spencer, Waitrose – the list just goes on, the jobs that I applied for.

I met Vicky from Scope, and she asked me, ‘Anything you want any help with?’ I asked, ‘Can you give me a job?!’ She said she’d try.

And a few weeks later she gave me a call, and she said that there’s this programme, First Impressions, First Experiences. At first I thought, ‘It’s not a job, it’s more of a course, and I won’t be getting paid’.
But then I thought about it. I had a flashback of my previous job interviews – which went well, until I talked about my disability.

Skills for the business world

Because of the course, and the professional mentor I worked with, I’m more confident of just being me without people judging me. You can’t be worried about what other people think.

If anything you’ve got an advantage, because you can say: ‘I‘m at the same place as these people, but I‘ve also got a disability’. It just shows you have an extra strong character. Now I describe my disability as more of a strength than as a weakness.

I use the skills I learnt on the course all the time. For example, speaking in a professional manner – no one’s going to take you seriously if you’re speaking slang.

My dream job is to become a foreign exchange trader. I want to trade in the financial markets. I joined an online trading academy – they gave me a scholarship and now I can go on the course for free.
And after the course, the trainers don’t just say goodbye to you. We’ve been in frequent contact, and it’s something that I’m hoping to carry on.

Pursuing the dreamAzar looking away from the camera

Recently, I had a cup of tea with my mentor, Sean. I had a great relationship with Sean. He’s a trader, and he had this cool charisma.
I think that’s one of the things I learned – working in business there are going to be times where it’s stressful, painful, hard, but in the end it’s the people who stay calm who make it.

Without Scope I don‘t know what I’d be doing now. I’d be jobless, probably at home, playing my X-Box, watching TV. I wouldn’t be where I am today and I wouldn’t be able to explain my disability in a confident manner.

I‘ve just started a business management course at university. I got an access scholarship with help from Scope. I’m also working a part time job, and I’m starting a business with my uncle. I know what I want to be, and I know I can get my dream job.

Azar shared his story as part of our 100 Days, 100 Stories project. If you’re a disabled person or a parent of a disabled child, email us at stories@scope.org.uk to share your story.

Fluctuating and flexible support – why we need adjustment leave

Scope wants to close the disability employment gap. Disabled people can work and want to work – more than nine in 10 do work or have done in the past. However, only 45% of disabled people are currently in work.

In our  2014 report A Million Futures: halving the disability employment gap, Scope recommended the introduction of a new form of leave – “adjustment leave” as one way  to help disabled people stay in work. So we are delighted that The Work Foundation are now also asking for this in their new report Fluctuating Conditions, Fluctuating Support: Improving organisational resilience to fluctuating conditions in the workforce.

Adjustment leave reflects the fact that many people who are disabled or who have long-term health conditions experience changes in their impairment or condition over time.

It’s a new form of absence which would allow  the person to take part-time leave on a temporary basis at the same level of pay as would be accrued during pre-existing sick leave. Unlike sick leave, the individual is still working, but on a modified basis. Unlike part-time working, this change is intended to be temporary only – it is intended to help an individual “adjust” to a change in their condition.

Let’s take Mary. Mary has a condition which affects her joints and mobility and has recently become a wheelchair user. Everyday tasks – such as using public transport, or doing her shopping – are now taking Mary much longer than they used to. She is also experiencing much more pain and fatigue. Additionally, Mary wants to try a new therapy.  At the moment, she can’t manage work on a full-time basis, but she doesn’t want to lose her income or her independence. Her employers are keen to keep her skills, experience and expertise.

This is where adjustment leave would come in. Mary continues working, but she does shorter hours every day for a few months. This helps her to adjust faster to the changes in her life, and prevents her needing to take a full-time sickness absence. She is also continuing to be productive for her company at the same time. Once Mary has adjusted, she goes back to her old way of working.

Many employers are already doing this on an ad-hoc basis. Making this an official form of absence –  recognised by government, by HR professionals and most importantly, by employers –  would prevent unnecessary sickness absence and help disabled people stay in work.

Retaining disabled people’s talent makes good business sense. It’s time we step up to the plate.

If you have any thoughts on the report you’d like share, or a personal experience of adjustment leave, we’d love to hear from you.

UK Disability History Month: war and impairment

1958 Adana printing machine (2)We’re in the midst of UK Disability History Month, which runs until 22 December. This year’s theme is war and impairment. To mark this, here’s an edited extract from Can You Manage Stares?, where Bill Hargreaves recalls his wartime work from running his father’s soap factory to entertaining the troops…

Soap maker

On Friday 13 December 1940, papers came from the Government, requisitioning the factory premises. The Luftwaffe had got to know where all the major aircraft factories in Britain were and so they were dispersed to other sites. One of these was my small soap works where they wanted to build Spitfire wings. We were told we had six weeks to get out of that factory and if we weren’t out they would come and forcibly remove all the machinery.

For six weeks I found myself having to cope with staff I had never had to cope with in my life, to pay them, to give them instructions, to make the soap, to fill orders, to take the orders, to see things were delivered on time and all this sort of responsibility at the age of 21.

The soap works duly closed. There was nowhere else to go, so suddenly I was out of work. Now my stepmother, to be fair to her, fought tooth and nail for me. She said, “You cannot take my son’s factory away. He is disabled. There would be nothing else for him to do.” “We can’t help that,” they said, “There is a war on.” And that was the end of my career as a soapmaker.

Counting nuts and bolts

My father took me to the nearest labour exchange but the manager said that there was nothing that he could offer. I was asked to take a job in the bus garage across the road, which had also been requisitioned. They were also making Spitfire wings and I was asked to go into the stores and sort out nuts and bolts. That’s all they thought I was fit for! I soon became very discontented with my lot.

In the end I created such a fuss about counting bolts and nuts that they said, “The only place for you is Birmingham,” but the bombs were dropping there and so many people had been killed. I said, “I couldn’t care less. I want to go where the action is.”

I obtained a post as a clerk with Vickers Armstrong at the great  aircraft factory in Erdington, where they produced 20 Spitfires a week and 40 Lancaster bombers a month.

I could not write sufficiently well and so they gave me a typewriter, which I was able to manage using two fingers. During the war the able-bodied in industry became very scarce indeed, and this gave disabled people like me a chance. As a result my employers decided to use my other skills, and I was promoted to head of a section dealing with the dissemination of modifications to Spitfire fighters and Lancaster bombers.

Entertaining the troops

I channelled all my energies into ventriloquism. During the evenings I was asked by the YMCA Travelling Theatre to go out and entertain troops in lonely gun sites throughout the Midlands area.

Most nights I used to finish work, go into the men’s cloakroom, change into a dress suit, white tie and tails, and put on stage make-up. The theatre was a large, specially adapted furniture van. When you let the side down, there was a stage with footlights and all the rest of it.  They had a piano and everything. We used to travel to a gun site, set up stage and start. Several times aircraft came overhead, the air raid sirens and the klaxon horns went and the audiences disappeared! There I was in mid-sentence suddenly without an audience and having to dive for cover myself.

I was finding myself through ventriloquism. People were seeing me as a ventriloquist and not as a disabled person. That was the making of me, really. That got me into society because I found something I could do better than most people. This was the key. I could shine. I found that my disability didn’t matter.

Can You Manage Stares? by Bill Hargreaves is available as an ebook. 

Representing disability throughout the BBC

The BBC is inviting disabled people with digital skills to a ‘Get In’ Day to hear about career opportunities. The event is at New Broadcasting House on Thursday 28 August 2014.

Ahead of the day Toby Mildon, from BBC Future Media – the team responsible for designing, developing and running digital services like iPlayer, websites and Red Button – talks about life at the BBC. He’s also a TV Disability Activator, working to make sure disability is represented within the business and on TV.

What do you do for the BBC?

I manage ‘user experience’ and design projects for news, the website or apps, and help commission digital agencies to do work for us. I also look after our Diversity Action Plan, which is an initiative to encourage more disabled people to join the BBC in both technological areas, and across the business. I advise our Director of TV on how disability is portrayed on our screens.

Every day is different – I might be brainstorming a project plan, writing a report for our leadership team detailing how a project is going, facilitating a creative workshop, drafting a contract, arranging pitches or meeting a head of commissioning to discuss disability stories and presenters; the list goes on.

What is the secret of your success?

I think it’s important to have three things in life: a back bone (and mine is reinforced from a spinal fusion!), a wish bone and a funny bone. If you have determination, dreams and a sense of humour, you’ll go far. I’ve managed to ‘tune into’ and be passionate about jobs that inspire me, which in turn motivates me. I believe in the BBC’s mission to inform, educate and entertain the world, and as long as I’m making a difference, I’ll enjoy my work. I’ve had several mentors and coaches to help me accelerate my career, including one through a Creative Diversity Network mentoring scheme.

What do you like about the BBC and working for it?

I believe in our mission, and I am proud of the high quality and world-class services and content that we produce. I work with really talented people who continue to inspire me. I’m also autonomous in my work – my line manager doesn’t micro-manage me, and I relish this freedom. For example, I’m able to write this article on the train so I can leave the office early, which helps with my life/work balance, and therefore my health.

I like that there’s quite a few disabled people in the office, so I’m not the ‘odd one out’. I have 24/7 care and my PA accompanies me to work to help with everything from feeding and going to the toilet, to moving around the office and scanning documents. The staff working at the Access Unit met me on my first day to assess me for what reasonable adjustments I needed, and later when my arms weakened, they made further adjustments, such as putting Dragon Dictate on my laptop.

What do you think are the main false perceptions around disability and employment?

I believe there are three top false perceptions about disabled people: That they are too costly to hire i.e. adjustments needed and sick leave etc; They don’t have the same stamina as non-disabled folk; They are somehow less intelligent.

All three are complete rubbish, and have been disproven by academics and government research time and time again! Disabled people need the confidence to see themselves as resilient and resourceful individuals, which is crucial for work. It’ll be a slow change because it’s about altering staunch attitudes. We need a combination of direct action, policy lobbying and disabled role models spreading positive vibes to make a difference.

Finally, what advice would you give to individuals with disabilities wishing to work at the BBC or in media?

If you’re the kind of person who is happy to take a leap of faith, just apply now through BBC Careers. If you’re fresh out of university, or have little work experience, check out our twice yearly extend internships for disabled people. If you need more input then seek careers help from a professional coach or mentor. A lot of it is about making connections and networking, so start talking to people and getting yourself known, online or in person. It’s so easy today to make connections through websites such as Meetup, LinkedIn or Twitter – you could even put a tweet out to try and organise work shadowing or work experience.

If you would like to attend, please RSVP to toby.mildon@bbc.co.uk by attaching a copy of your CV. Spaces are very limited and by invitation only. The BBC will provide Reasonable Adjustments for anyone selected to attend.

A version of this blog first appeared on Disability Horizons.

Disability, employment and the law

Guest post from Emma Satyamurti is an employment and discrimination lawyer with the law firm Leigh Day.

If asked to list the key ingredients of a good life, I would bet that most of us would rank work pretty high.

A decent job provides more than a salary; it provides a role, not just in the narrow sense of the job description but a purposeful connection with other people and of contributing to a shared enterprise. At a basic level, getting a fair wage, is a confirmation that you have value in the world. It is not surprising, then, that long-term unemployment can impose a heavy burden, in terms of financial poverty but also through the pain of social isolation and low self-esteem. Not to mention the economic costs of wasted talent and lower tax revenues.

The recent report published by Scope – ‘A million futures: halving the disability employment gap’ – makes important reading. It begins with some striking statistics:

  • The gap between disabled and non-disabled people’s employment is 30%.
  • 10% of unemployed disabled people have been out of work for 5 years or more as compared with 3% of non-disabled people.
  • 220,000 more disabled people left than entered employment last year .
  • More positively, halving the unemployment of disabled people would add £13 billion to the economy.

Of course not all disabled people are in a position to work, but for too many people the obstacles are caused not by their disability but by the hostility of the world of work. The political penchant for stigmatising them as benefit scroungers completely misses the point.

Protection

The law provides disabled people with many protections. It protects from disadvantageous treatment because of their disability. It also places employers under a duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to remove barriers faced by disabled people. This obligation is one of the most powerful tools in the disability rights toolkit. It offers a lever for creative partnership between employer and employee that can be a force for real progress.

But theory and practice are not always in step. While many employers take a constructive approach to disability issues and want to do the right thing, many do not. As an employment lawyer specialising in discrimination (and as a disabled person myself), I see first-hand how often quite simple, inexpensive adjustments would make all the difference.

Yet these are not always forthcoming. I am thinking, for example:

  • The visually impaired client who needed better lighting.
  • Clients whose mental health difficulties mean that a small degree of flexibility in working hours.
  • Clients recovering from medical treatment who, while not yet at full capacity, are keen to return to some form of work and need a non-permanent but intelligent approach to ‘sickness’ absence to do so.

Indeed this last point emerges as a key focus of Scope’s report. Their research suggests that employers’ inflexible approach to sickness forces many into long-term sickness absence and ultimately job-loss. Adjustments to (for example) working hours and location could have supported them to remain in productive work. This is a lose-lose situation for both employers and employees, and for the economy.

One of the recommendations in Scope’s report is for the introduction of a new type of ‘adjustment’ leave to counter the current all or nothing approach. This caters in particular for periods of crisis or change. This would enable employees to take a limited period of part-time sick leave to deal with the situation, while still being able to work on other days. The current system of GP fit notes, and the duty to make reasonable adjustments would support such an initiative, and it will be interesting to see if the government takes it up.

I am optimistic

Unemployment is a damaging form of social exclusion which impoverishes those out of work and society as a whole. Disabled people are particularly vulnerable given the prejudice and fear that still surrounds disability. But I am optimistic. In my own work I have dealt with many cases where employers have (albeit with a little help!) found ways to accommodate my clients’ needs. They can turn what could have been a downhill spiral into a temporary glitch in a successful career.

Scope’s report provides a reminder of the difficulties faced by disabled people. It also shows how much we have to gain from progress and proposes some thought-provoking steps we might use to get there.

‘You’ve got so much stacked against you’ – #100days100stories

We first published this guest blog from Emily Birkinshaw in May 2014. Emily supports 16-24 year-old disabled people in East London to find work through Scope’s employment courses. Emily has Non Epileptic Seizures, and draws on her own experiences to support the young people. We’re republishing her story here as part of Scope’s 100 Days, 100 Stories project

Emily Birkinshaw sitting in a cafe
Emily supports young disabled people to find work.

You have got so much stacked against you, if you’re a young disabled person looking for a job. Your confidence is just knocked over and over again. We see a lot of people who have reached a stage of ‘I will never work, there’s nothing for me; no-one wants me’.

Often the young people we work with are going for the same jobs that graduates are going for, because of the way the job markets have shuffled. We see a lot of people who haven’t done any work experience; there hasn’t been any careers input in their schooling. Maybe they’ve gone to a special educational needs (SEN) school, where it’s expected that they will just go into a day service.

Application forms are such a barrier – so many of our young people really struggle with application forms, they’re so complex to navigate. Another barrier is people’s perceptions. A young person may get to the interview stage of a job, and they’ll have cerebral palsy and their speech may be a bit slurred, so the job will go to the guy who doesn’t have that. Or they don’t even get to that interview stage because there are still employers who think ‘Why would I take the disabled person over somebody who’s going to be no bother?’

There are so few employers who are willing to take that chance with a young disabled person. I do a lot of work with employers, calming their fears about what disability is. Even when an employer says ‘we’ll take somebody on a placement’, they panic. They’ll say ‘we don’t have a ramp’ and I’ll be like ‘it’s OK, he’s got schizophrenia, it’s fine, he doesn’t need a ramp’.

It really frustrates me when people write off young people, saying ‘they don’t care, they don’t engage, they don’t want to do the opportunities you give them’. If you gave those opportunities to the young people I work with, they would bite your hand off!

I get really passionate about what I do, I think because I’m disabled myself, and because I’m from a very working class background. I did go to university but I was the first person in my family to go to university. I had lots of health problems going through school, so I feel really fortunate to end up in the situation I’m. I wouldn’t wish seizures on anyone, but I can accept that they happen to me and that means that I can be even better at this job – and that sort of gives my disability a purpose.

I love seeing employers changing their attitudes, and how they’re blown away by their experience. But seeing the young people grow and develop, and stand up for themselves and have some power and autonomy as disabled people, is the best thing ever.

My job is frustrating, sometimes, because you can’t change society, but to see where you are helping somebody to change their life for the better – is the best feeling in the world.

See how Scope is supporting young disabled Londoners to find work.

Find out more about our 100 days, 100 stories campaign.

My job was to advise employers on disability issues…then I became disabled myself

Guest blog from Jane. Jane was working as a trainer advising business on the benefits of a diverse workforce, including the need to employ more disabled people. Then in an unexpected twist of fate she became disabled herself, and had to look at her own employment situation.

Inclusive recruitment and employment has been an important issue to me all my working life. As an independent diversity trainer I travelled around the UK for 14 years, talking to employers about the benefits of a diverse workforce including, of course, disabled people. I would talk about the business benefits of employing disabled people, backed up by research which demonstrates that disabled people are, on average, easily as productive as their non-disabled colleagues, and have less time off sick, fewer workplace accidents and stay in their jobs longer.

They also bring additional skills they have had to develop to navigate around a world not designed for them – tenacity, creativity, problem-solving, determination and innovation. And, of course, they bring with them intelligence about how to access the “disabled market” (10 million disabled people in the UK spend up to £80 billion a year – that’s a big market!).

Twist of fate

Then, in an unexpected and somewhat ironic twist of fate, I became disabled myself. I knew that most disabled people acquired their disability as adults rather than being born with them, and I was now part of this statistic. Instead of talking about disabled people as “they”, it was now “we”.

After some soul searching, and having various treatments and surgery to try and “get better” I had to finally accept that my spinal condition was degenerative, and was not only incurable, but would get worse. Unable to sit, stand or walk very well, I could no longer drive around the country standing up all day to deliver training. I had to put my money where my mouth had been for the previous 14 years, and look at my own employment situation.

I adapted my workplace

I started a diversity training business (using my knowledge and experience) and employing others to deliver the training. The logistics were challenging, and Access to Work funding turned out to be a major source of support. Unable to sit at a desk I would lie on a platform to work with a laptop suspended above me, and they also provided a height adjustable desk where I could stand to work for short periods.

Jan standing at a desk

Jane lying using a laptop

A new start

This arrangement worked well for seven years, and then the economic climate and my health both rapidly deteriorated. The training business ceased trading, and I founded Evenbreak. This was a whole new venture – a social enterprise to help disabled job seekers find work with inclusive employers who would value their skills, through a specialist online job board.

Access to Work funding saved the day again. I now work lying on my bed with a laptop suspended above me. When I go to work-related appointments I am driven lying flat by a driver paid for by Access to Work. When at the destination I can stand for short periods of time with a back brace and neck collar, and if I need to be there a long time I have a reclining chair I can lie on.

Evenbreak grew, attracting employers such as Network Rail, John Lewis, E.ON, Greggs, BBC and many more, and soon I needed to employ people to help. In order to promote good practice, we only employ disabled people, and currently there are four of us, all disabled and all working remotely from home.

Opening minds

However, I was lucky. I was self-employed or running my own business. For disabled people who are unemployed, or working for employers, they have to rely on the employer being enlightened enough to see their talents beyond their disability, and be prepared to be flexible if necessary in order to access that talent.

Many of our candidates report that they have previously been discounted for jobs because of a completely unrelated disability (e.g. someone who uses a wheelchair considered unsuitable for a telesales role – why??). Or if they have acquired a disability whilst in employment the employer has not been flexible enough to accommodate new needs and the person has left.

My advice to candidates is to leave the discussion about disability and reasonable adjustments as late in the process as they can. Of course, this is difficult if reasonable adjustments are required to access the first stages of the recruitment process.

Emphasising the skills the candidate brings with them is important – making the employer see the benefits of the candidate’s skills before having to think about reasonable adjustments. Also, it’s good for the candidate to put the employer’s mind at rest regarding cost, explaining that Access to Work will pay all or some of the costs of any reasonable adjustments required.

One of Evenbreak’s aims is to promote the business benefits of employing disabled people so that in future disabled candidates won’t have quite so many barriers to overcome. We work with employers to help them adopt good practice around inclusion and accessibility, in the hope that one day all disabled people will have an even break.

Jane on a special chair, upsidedown on the phone

Scope have published a new report exploring disabled people’s working lives. The report – ‘A million futures’ – shows that last year alone, 220,000 more disabled people fell out of work than found a new job.

A million futures: halving the disability employment gap

Today we published a new report exploring disabled people’s working lives. The report – ‘A million futures’ – shows that last year alone, 220,000 more disabled people fell out of work than found a new job.

We wanted to explore why disabled people are struggling to stay in jobs.

Our new research with hundreds of disabled people found that a lack of flexibility in the workplace is a critical issue.

“I, like thousands of others, fall into the grey area of too disabled to hold down a job without health implications, yet not disabled enough to get help from the Government.” – Sarah, Isle of Wight

Nearly half (48%) of the 700 respondents to a Scope survey said that flexible working time and practices could have helped them stay in work.

Many disabled people told us that a key benefit of flexible working is that it can allow them to manage changes in their lives related to disability, or to manage a fluctuating condition, or recover from treatment.

Yet our survey found that only one in three had been offered the flexibility they needed.

“If I’d been given the opportunity, I could have sat down with them and said ‘look, this is what I’m capable of doing, this is what would help me get back into the workplace” – Jane, West Midlands

As a result, too many disabled people and their families find themselves relying on taking sick leave to manage this need for flexibility – often against their wishes.

Over half (60%) of those on long-term sick leave are disabled people. Once in sick leave, it can be very difficult to return to work.

Providing better support for disabled people must be a priority for Government and employers – and can bring benefits for everyone.

For those disabled people who are able to continue working, it means they can continue working, contributing, and taking home a pay packet.

Employers are able to keep hold of the knowledge, experience and contacts that often experienced disabled people can bring.

Crucially, better in-work support can bring benefits to the Government, by rebalancing spending on expensive programmes back to supporting those in work.

For more details, see the full report.

Find out more about our previous reports: