I check the referrals to the service over the weekend. We support disabled people across England and Wales to find employment, and in the past three months we’ve seen a 200% year-on-year increase in registration for our services.
I catch up with one of our employment advisers. They have been speaking to a new customer, Julie, who was recently made redundant from her role as a PA for 11 years. She is the only one in her team of four to be made redundant, and the only one who is disabled.
Sadly, this is a common theme since the furlough scheme approached its original end. We’ve worked on her CV, and a plan to find similar roles. She is upset and daunted at the prospect of finding a job during a pandemic.
I meet with an employer who is keen to recruit more disabled people. Employers often have their own preconceived ideas about what a disabled person can and can’t do.
We talk about how often minor changes make a big difference for disabled people, and a government support scheme that funds them called Access to Work. We discuss hosting a virtual careers day.
We work to find roles with employers who actively want to hire more disabled people. This can encourage our customers who are often conflicted about when to disclose their disability to employers due to fear of bias – conscious or otherwise – and discrimination.
I spend the afternoon working with my team leaders as our advisers are completely overwhelmed by calls. We discuss ways of increasing capacity. The team is very resilient but hearing horror employment stories daily, especially from people in the retail and hospitality, is tough. In the current competitive job market, disabled people sadly often end up at the back of the queue.
A customer has a chaotic home life and is unable to speak to us as other family members are at home due to Covid restrictions. They don’t want her to find work. I consult with our internal safeguarding team and refer them to local social services.
In the afternoon we receive some great feedback from a customer who has been in work for three months. It has had a positive effect on her mental health, so much so that she is looking to take on extra hours.
I speak to Neel, who is looking for a job after a couple of years volunteering at a local charity shop. He has a learning disability and has found it challenging applying for jobs – most of his previous roles came through his local job centre, open only sporadically during the pandemic. A lot of the work we do focuses on building people’s confidence. We encourage them and affirm that their expertise, work ethic and contribution to an organisation deserves to be valued and respected.
It’s our team meeting. We share positive stories from customers, including Steve, who has just found a role as a HR administrator after being out of work for over two years. Steve had interview support from the service and is so happy to be starting work.
There’s also Anna. She recently started a role in a coronavirus testing centre, and she’s truly happy and relieved after losing her job in a factory where she had worked for 30 years. With the right adjustments and support from her employer, I know she’ll thrive in this role.
All names have been changed
Guy Chaudoir is employment programme lead for Scope’s Support to Work service