The road to employment for disabled people has often been, as I have mentioned in previous blogs a great challenge and often at times seemingly impossible. To sum up in one word obstacles, obstacles, obstacles. Oh and if I can mention another disincentive, disincentive, disincentive.
I have been around in this field long enough to have seen numerous changes. I remember as a child visiting a day centre for adults with disabilities with my grandfather (he was retired and volunteered a few days a week to pass on his skills in leather making and a variety of other useful things) where everyone was busy in the workshop making such items as purses and ‘dusty bins’. At the time, I was probably aware that this was not a factory like the one my mum worked in but couldn’t quite understand what the difference was.
When I became of working age (circa late 80’s) I chose to work with disabled people. In that time I came across lots of different work experience, placements, sheltered employment and a variety of other vocational initiatives. All of them I guess with the purpose of helping disabled people to acquire new work skills, hopefully go on to paid employment and achieve greater equality.
There was a payment made at one time to disabled people who attended a day service (I’m sure before abolition it was £15). Personally, I found this small payment to be quite degrading for people who may or may have not done a day’s work. I felt that for people who had worked hard that it was a miniscule amount and offered very little incentive and for people who perhaps had difficulty in doing a ‘job’, it was like giving people money for just turning up. None of the above were satisfactory. I did however, support disabled people who were against the abolition of this payment because as they explained to me ‘it did give them some kind of reward for the work that they had done, no matter how small the amount’.
After this battle was lost, I did hope that there would have been some greater initiatives launched to bridge the gap between disabled people and employment; in turn leading to equality for disabled people both in the workplace and in society. However, I have witnessed in the course of my work the continual decline of employment opportunities for disabled people. I find this a very worrying trend and we all must try our best to reverse it by giving people the opportunity to develop their skills and find work.