From Education to Employment: young people with disabilities and additional needs

In this webinar Youth Employment UK CEO Laura-Jane Rawlings will be discussing the challenges young people with disabilities and additional needs face moving from education to employment with Leanora Volpe, Policy & Research Officer of Leonard Cheshire Disability.

Is it that there are less employment opportunities because employers are not comfortable in taking young people on with disabilities because they don’t think they can do the job or is that employers don’t know how to support and a worry about political correctness and doing something wrong?

I think that perceptions are important, we carried out research with line mangers who were responsible for recruitment process and one of the largest barriers they named when it came to taking on young disabled people was the cost. 60% said that cost of making adjustments was a barrier, another barrier cited by around a fifth of respondents was a worry that disabled staff would take a lot of time off of work and a worry that they wouldn’t be able to do the job.  All of those challenges can be tackled by making reasonable adjustments, for example allowing a disabled person might need a more flexible rota to attend all health related appointments to ensure they stay healthy  or slightly more flexible hours in the office so if an appointment is booked in for 4.000pm they can work around it and start earlier. There is also the Access to Work scheme, only 40% of employers knew about it. The scheme provides funding for employers to make reasonable adjustments and to provide support for a disabled employee beyond what would be considered reasonable adjustments. It can be helping to pay for transport for work, VSL interpreters, support workers etc. There is support out there that can make adapting to that role easier for the disabled person but alleviates financial challenges of employers.

Why do only 40% know about it and who are they?

If an organisation hasn’t taken on a disabled person before they might not know about the scheme, it is important for small and medium size business to know it is there too to ensure they know that support is available without them incurring large costs. Often disabled people don’t need costly adjustments so a part of it is encouraging employers not to make the assumption that taking on someone someone that is disabled will lead to really high costs or them needing time off or needing a lot of support in the work place. Everyone has individual needs and abilities.

What sort of questions do you think employers are afraid to ask in interviews? How can you have honest conversations about need?

Being aware that the interview process needs to be accessible is important. The conversation about needs and adjustments and needs are met starts at the recruitment stage and doesn’t stop.  You can start by making sure your interview process is accessible for example, providing job description in a word document so it is compatible with screen readers as PDFs often are not. People with learning difficulties really benefit from plain english, simple structures and removal of jargon. Make sure everything is really clear. Often people with autism or those suffering from anxiety can benefit from seeing the interview questions first so that any communication barriers or slightly longer  processing time isn’t a barrier to thriving in an interview. If you are advertising online make it clear that you are willing to make adjustments and offer flexible working arrangements, we know that disabled people really value that, they want to know employers are committed.

In terms of questions that employers might fight slightly difficult to ask, there is maybe a perception that perhaps it is rude to ask questions about a disability and to an extent it is important that a disabled person doesn’t feel pressured to disclose a disability at the recruitment stage because people do worry that they might be treated differently. Letting the disabled person lead the conversation. starting with “What do you need/is there anything else that could support you/ do you have everything you need to do your role/is there anything you need for the interview?” gives an opportunity to say “can we make sure the interview is in a well lit room because I have to lip read. Making sure communication is open so candidates don’t feel like they are asking too much or feeling that if they disclose something it might count against them.

If an employer is wanting to be inclusive it is important to communicate that early on so that there are not barriers at the recruitment stage?

That is great advice that doesn’t come at any cost, the very practical nature of amending job applications etc. 

There are simple quick changes that can make a difference and open communication as well as break down perceptions that accommodating disabled people and taking them on is a time consuming task. Maybe people just need something as simple as having documents in a certain format.

Tell us about some of the success stories?

One of our interns through the Change 100 scheme, had been wary previously of disclosing her condition, in previous jobs she had struggled due to the lack of adjustments, because she hadn’t felt comfortable asking for them and in her words had moulded herself to the workplace instead of asking the workplace to make adjustments for her. Since entering the scheme she did an internship at Skanska which increased her confidence and having those adjustments gave her the space to gain first hand experience of what a professional working environment is and how you can manage disability in the workplace confidently and how helpful it can be to have small adjustment. She had flexible hours which was really helpful and she felt it had a good impact on her employment prospects.

Another example, Lyle, has cerebral palsy. He was previously doing an unpaid internship in waste management but through our employment advisors. He took on an apprenticeship in IT and is now working in IT through his apprenticeship. He had always been inserted in computers to that experience he has had with our advisors has helped him channel his interest and having adjustments means that he can per sue the career he wants to with out barriers.

Change 100 Programme, who is that open to?

The programme is all across the country, employers up and down the country take part. For young people looking for support we can signpost them to you, take a look here. We encourage people to get involved in our employment support schemes. Whether that is support training or gaining an internship.

Tell us more about the Forum

As part of employment campaign, untapped talent we want to hear form employers what their experiences are, what the challenges are and what can be made better. In March we will be holding roundtables and discussions to gather more information. Events will take place in London, Manchester and Edinburgh.

For more information, please email info@youthemployment.org.uk or call 01536 513388.

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