Tag Archives: Work

“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.

My mum was like, ‘Wow! It’s a new Elliot!’

I’ve been working with some of the people Scope supports to live independently in the community, whatever their support needs. I wanted to share a few of their stories.

When I met 24-year-old Elliot at his home in Hereford, a bungalow he shares with two friends around his age, he was in a bit of a hurry. He had an interview that morning to volunteer at a local hospice.

Elliot outside his house in Hereford
Elliot outside his house in Hereford

“I work at a charity shop in Hereford. I want to get more jobs or voluntary work, just to keep ticking over,” he told me.

“I’m hoping to do a National Diploma at the shop, and then when I’ve done voluntary work for a while I’ll hopefully move up slowly.”

Leaving home

Elliot has cerebral palsy and autism. He’s a full-time wheelchair user, and has lived in a shared house for the past six years, working with Scope support workers.

His parents helped him find the place he’s in now when he was 18, and he says he hasn’t looked back since. He started out with a few dinners and overnight stays, and soon decided to make the move full-time.

“A few weeks after I moved in, my mum came to visit and she was like, ‘Wow! It’s a new Elliot!’”

Choice and control

Scope delivers Elliot’s care – which he pays for with his personal social care budget – and that of his housemates, but Elliot is a tenant in the house. This gives him choice and control over the way he lives. He could move out if he wanted to, or change his support provider.

Elliot in his bedroom
Elliot in his room, which he’s decorated with lots of furniture in his favourite colour, red

There’s a support worker in the house 24 hours a day. The three housemates pay for this together. Elliot also has a one-to-one support worker during the day.

“Obviously we have our ups and downs, like everyone, but I love the guys here. Scope is very special to me, because they help me achieve what I want to do.

“I go everywhere with a support worker, but we’re trying to get me green on the traffic lights system [a road safety programme] so I can go out on my own – into town, into work.”

‘The best experience’

Elliot’s interest in charity fundraising led him to do a 14,000-foot tandem skydive to raise money for his local air ambulance. He single-handedly raised more than £1,100.

Elliot with his skydiving instructor, Jason
Elliot and Jason, his skydiving partner

“It was the best experience of my life. I was harnessed to Jason – I couldn’t have done it without him. It’s not easy to find somewhere that caters for people with disabilities – I had to ring round all over the country.

When they put me in the harness, I was like ‘Here we go…’, but once we jumped I didn’t even feel nervous when I looked down. It was absolutely amazing. The whole family came to watch.”

I met people with a range of impairments. Elliot mostly needs support with staying safe in the outside world, but others have more complex needs. I’ll share some of those stories next week.

Find out more about Scope’s community support services.

“So, did you walk into town? Oh! I meant ‘wheel into town’ – well, you know what I mean…”

Guest post from Zoe Lloyd, a disability awareness trainer with Enhance the UK.

Disability awareness trainer Zoe LloydWell, this is awkward. As a wheelchair user, I have been in this kind of situation many times. Personally I don’t find it awkward,
but I’m pretty sure the person who says it wants the ground to swallow them up.

When trying to talk to a disabled person, lots of people feel hyper-aware about the words they are using, and worry about saying the wrong thing.

It really doesn’t have to be this way – most disabled people I know don’t have a massive chip on their shoulder about language and terminology and can laugh about things. (Obviously offensive language and derogatory remarks are another matter).

I’ve also experienced the ‘does she take sugar?’ scenario. I had been going to the same hairdresser for years. But when I became a wheelchair user, suddenly one of the workers couldn’t look at me and had to ask my mum how I liked my tea!

To think she had known me before, yet the fact I was sitting in a wheelchair made her act differently towards me, was quite hard to understand.

No wonder, then, that some strangers in the street find it hard to meet your eyes.

I am a trainer for Enhance the UK, a charity which – among other things – delivers disability awareness training to schools and workplaces.  All of our trainers are disabled, and we are successful, fun, positive people.   We make our training fun and interactive – and as honest as possible. We can give candid answers from our own personal experience and help people challenge their fears, concerns and awkwardness around disability.

Most fear is a product of ignorance, and we hope our training helps people to look past their colleagues/pupils/clients’ disability and see them for who they are as a person.

Honest, open communication with disabled colleagues is far better than making assumptions. That way we can get over any awkwardness within minutes, rather than worry about it for months.

And stumbling over those everyday phrases usually makes things more awkward rather than less. For example, people have said to us that they’ve felt bad after saying things like ‘Do you see what I mean?’ to a blind person.

Maybe over time, you might end up avoiding such phrases automatically with your blind colleague – but if you forget, it’s fine!

The greater inclusion of disabled people on TV over the past few years has helped show people that disability isn’t something to be scared of. Channel 4’s The Last Leg is a perfect example. Barriers are being broken down, and long may that continue.

Now, I’m just going to take my dog for a wheel – sorry, a walk.

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.

Budget 2014: How the Chancellor can put disabled people at the heart of the recovery

At the start of the year the Chancellor was clear that the economy is not out of the woods yet – ‘it’s far too soon to say: job done’. The Budget gives him the opportunity to put some meat on these bones and deliver one of the most important speeches in the long election campaign.

As he reveals what this ‘year of hard truths’ will entail, the focus will be on his ‘strategy for growth’.

There is a huge opportunity for disabled people to be part of this strategy. Scope has called on the Chancellor to put disabled people at the heart of the economic recovery to meet his own aspiration of making a ‘strong and fair economy’.

We will be looking for his red box to contain some of the following to make this a reality:

A Commitment to covering the extra costs of being a disabled person

Disabled people’s ability to pay their way and be financially secure is hampered by various extra costs. The Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is designed to help meet some of these costs.

  1. We want to see the Chancellor protect the value of PIP by taking it out of the new cap on Annually Managed Expenditure.
  2. The Chancellor can tackle these extra costs head on by announcing an innovation fund that looks to drive down the extra cost.

Action to get disabled people into work

By 2020, there will be an increase in the number of disabled people looking for work. Following reassessment of Incapacity Benefits claimants, between March 2011 and March 2013, there are at least 650,000 more disabled people are seeking work.

To help them find jobs, the Chancellor needs to:

  1. Make regional growth strategies work for disabled people.
  2. Give disabled people personal budgets to spend on back to work support.

Social Care

The Care Bill has completed its passage through Parliament – but one crucial issue still remains: funding. The Care System remains chronically underfunded, and for the Bill to be the legacy legislation that the Government intended, it needs to be matched with the right investment.

  1. The Government introduced the ‘Better Care Fund’ in June last year. The Chancellor needs to commit to extend this Investment every year.
  2. Piloting a community budget approach to care integration for disabled people – bringing together care, health and employment support.

The Minister for Disabled People, Mike Penning, will be in Manchester on Wednesday as part of the Government’s Disability Confident Campaign – and I hope the Chancellor’s Budget gives him every opportunity to say just how the Government will make sure that disabled people are at the heart of the economic recovery.

Being a working mum

E smiling with a hat onGuest post from Sonia, a single mum to a 10 year old with cerebral palsy. She’s started a blog for families of children with additional support needs

Victoria Beckham talked about the difficulties of being a working mum and though we’ve nothing else in common, I can empathise with her on that.

My bright, articulate, humorous daughter has cerebral palsy and needs help to sit, stand, walk and with all aspects of her personal care.

I’m a single mum and really had no experience or expectation of disability before my daughter was born so not working was never on my radar. Here are some of the things that have helped me to be a working mum:

A supportive workplace

I changed career four years ago and now work full time as a teacher. During term time is a full time job but the school holidays help make it manageable.

From day one in my current job, I have been upfront and open about the difficulties of being a parent of a child with disabilities. I don’t believe I get treated any differently from another employee who has children but I think I am more conscious of my different needs.

There are some things that just can’t be arranged outside school hours. The big one being school review meetings. Yes I still feel awkward asking for the time, but my workplace are very supportive and I’m never in any doubt that the time will be allowed.

Our nanny

To be honest, without our nanny, I couldn’t work at all.

Having a nanny means that I can ensure specific things get done. Yes she is able to work through a weekly physio programme and attend appointments and home visits for equipment, support clothing measurement and the like. But as a nanny rather than a care assistant, she is able to support the social side of childhood, creating opportunity to cement the friendships my daughter makes.

I got my nanny through and agency and she’s been with us for seven years. We’ve been able to do all the moving and handling training and assessment on the job as my daughter’s needs changed. I also ensure that she is invited to all of the therapy and review meetings as when working, she is effectively me.

Communication

If you have a child with additional needs then you will have your own long list of therapists, specialists and consultants that are involved in the care of your child. When writing my blog, I started to make a list of everyone we see and I realised just how challenging trying to juggle them all could be.

I cope in two ways. Firstly I’ve made sure they all know my working arrangements and secondly I write things down.

All the therapists know and understand the situation. So they are happy to communicate by e-mail and will always offer home appointments at the end of the day and start blocks of treatment during school holidays. This runs like clockwork to be honest.

Consultants again once the situation is accepted, recognise that we can’t come every three months to a Monday morning clinic. Again this is currently running really smoothly to the extent that when an appointment was rescheduled, they specifically only offered dates in the school holidays.

Tracking and planning

You can’t keep all the dates and information in your head, or at least I can’t.

I have a smartphone to deal with e-mails as they come in and a Filofax for everything else. The Filofax is used for appointments, therapy tracking, recording concerns between appointments and creating agendas and tracking actions from meetings/appointments. It’s always there for the nanny to see and use too.

Read Sonia’s blog, All Born In. If you’re a working parent, what things have helped you?

How can we better support disabled people’s career journeys?

Guest post from Rob Trotter, Public Policy Advisor (Employment and Skills) at Scope.

The current labour market is a challenging place for disabled people. Over half of all disabled adults are unemployed. Most want to work but can face extraordinary barriers to finding and retaining a job.

Employment support – to help disabled adults find, prepare for and progress in work – is a vital part of removing these barriers. This can be anything from financial support like Access to Work, to help to find vacancies and prepare for interviews.

It’s welcome that the Government has announced in the 2013 Spending Round that £350 million will be available for employment support programmes. This investment could prove a vital lifeline for disabled people at every stage of their careers, from the first steps in looking for a job, to the support needed to progress.

But the challenge is that current employment support programmes aren’t yet effectively supporting disabled people. For instance, only 2.9% of Employment Support Allowance claimants – nine in 10 of whom are disabled people – have found a job through the flagship Work Programme. Too often, programmes focus only on job ‘outcomes’ rather than the needs of the person.

So today, five leading disability charities have published a major report setting out new ways to improve employment support for disabled people.

The report – Work in Progress: Rethinking employment support for disabled people – calls for a personalised, multi-agency approach which focuses on empowering disabled people to lead their own career journeys.

The report recommends that:

  •  There needs to be greater involvement of employers in the design and delivery of employment support
  • The Government should incentivise greater localisation of employment support for disabled people in order to stimulate innovation
  •  A more targeted approach should be taken for young disabled people who face particular challenges and often cannot access effective support

It also outlines how the quality of support can be improved, and calls for much greater empowerment and involvement of disabled people in their own journeys through work.