The Road to Employment for Disabled People – Part 4

I have mentioned in the previous posts in this series quite a few times, well quite a lot actually; my frustrations regarding the continued erosion of employment opportunities for disabled people. I have also documented some of the historical insights into this issue. I have however also stated quite clearly that I don’t believe in making complaint without giving solutions.

So, in this blog I hope to offer my opinion on the very possible real solutions.

Let’s look back at the main issues that I have mentioned in a previous blog as well as adding some details to these:

  1. The aspirations of disabled people need to be raised
  2. Proper assessment of disabled peoples’ needs (in a work context)
  3. A planned approach to meet these needs
  4. A willingness from employers to employ disabled people
  5. Support for employers to understand the needs of disabled people
  6. Disabled people given support to find employment
  7. Disabled people supported in their job

Now, let’s take each one in turn. I believe we need to start by offering young disabled people co-ordinated services which provide expert advice and can offer an up to date knowledge of current opportunities within the job market. I do realise that some agencies who work with these young people at the moment, provide an excellent service. However, this can be patchy according to where you live. I always believe ” if you don’t aim for the stars you never hit the sky”. If we target raising the aspirations of young disabled people then this will lead to these same young people having greater expectations of themselves.

In assessing the needs of all disabled people, this has to be done in relation to what job they hope to do and what help they may need to get there.

The planned approach could take many forms, there is funding available to support disabled people in employment, which I’m sure not many employers are aware of. Therefore, we need to raise awareness of the support needed and the funding that’s available and promote it.

I am of the strong opinion that if employers realise the benefits that employing disabled people can bring to their business e.g. research shows that employees with learning disabilities are often extremely loyal and committed to the company, as is shown in this example ”A Human Resources Manager, working in a large clothing store, told us that, of five people with learning disabilities employed when the store first opened five years ago, four are still there. In a business with a high turnover of staff, this loyalty is valued.” Available from http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/1859352413.pdf. Accessed 16th August 2012. This report was completed a number of years ago but the results are still valid. It does however show that we could greatly benefit from some up to date research about diversity in business being carried out.

The corporate image of business is also enhanced by being more socially responsible and there is also the potential for companies to gain greater exposure to previously untapped markets i.e. disabled people

So, as well as being the right thing to do, there are real tangible benefits for businesses which employ disabled people thus creating a ‘win/win’ situation. We need to promote the benefits of diversity in business as well as the knock on effect this can have in enhancing social diversity.

I believe that apprenticeships could be a real solution to getting disabled people into employment as there is often more support available on these programmes and it has been identified within the National Apprenticeship Service’s Business Plan that there is a need to broaden the diversity of the apprenticeship programme. So there is clearly willingness.

The Equality and Diversity data report (2012) also noted a decrease in the numbers of apprentices declaring learning difficulties and disabilities; this would strongly suggest that fewer disabled people are participating in apprenticeships thus meaning a lack of diversity in business.

There is also ”Access to Work” funding available to support disabled people when in a job. This can be used in a number of ways e.g. equality and diversity training for employers, to pay for a job coach.

I strongly suggest that everything is available to make this happen and it will take a joined up approach to ensure that it does happen.