The UK is celebrating record job figures, with an unemployment rate of 4.9% reported last month. But what about unemployment amongst those with a disability, including autism or learning disabilities? Fewer than 50% of disabled people are in employment and this figure shows no sign of changing.
The barriers affecting an individual vary widely, depending on the individual’s disability. People with depression, anxiety and severe learning disabilities find keeping and finding a job the hardest. Amongst this group, it can be the attitudes of employers, anxiety or difficulties with public transport.
To incentivise disabled people to find work, at the start of this month, the Government cut the disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). As the majority of people with a disability want to work, this move was criticised for not addressing the real barriers, and MPs, charities and individuals called for the cut to be reversed before its introduction. Charities called instead to first understand a person’s barriers to work and provide appropriate support. It’s hoped that The Department for Work and Pensions green paper “Improving lives: work, health and disability” will identify the barriers to work and put in place solutions proven to provide the right support. It has consulted widely.
We already see pockets where organisations are looking to really understand a person and put in place the support they need to find and stay in work. Technology is increasingly being used, as it enables people to access support anytime, anywhere, at a low cost. We hope that the Government shines a light on these schemes.
For example, Hampshire County Council have given people with mental health conditions and autism Brain in Hand, to arm them with the tools for independence. Sarah Alexander is a great example of how this has led to employment:
Sarah, 30, from Farnborough in Hampshire is on the autistic spectrum. She has found it hard to stay in employment for longer than three to four months. But since using Brain in Hand, things have changed.
Sarah has been using Brain in Hand software for a number of months now. It gives her access to her own personal coping strategies which she can call on anytime; an anxiety monitor and a red button response feature giving her the ability to request additional help. She can also log onto a website where she can review her usage to reflect, focus on success and also spot any new problems.
Talking about her experiences Sarah shares: “I’m currently using the Brain in Hand app and this has helped me as I know that I have something to call upon if I get stressed at work. For me this has been the most useful as I do not have to continually face people that I can sometimes find difficult to get on with or they do not really understand me.
The App has helped me to think about strategies to help myself. I use the app both on my phone and my Ipad and I know that I can use it at any time and get a response if needed. It has been like a ‘comfort blanket’ to me.
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“I am training to become a dental nurse and am now at a dental practice in Farnborough. I have been with the practice since 1 September 2015, and I have now been offered a contract working with one particular dentist. The practice has been really supportive and it is the first time that I have been able to make friends at work.”