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Looking for Jobs

For young people with disabilities, finding employment for the first time can be a daunting prospect, however, there is plenty of guidance, support and training out there if you know where to look.

Government-backed schemes

A number of government-funded initiatives are dedicated to supporting disabled people to find suitable employment. These include:

Work and Health Programme

The Work and Health Programme can help you to find and keep a job if you are out of work. The W&H programme runs through your local JobCentre Plus, and will provide you with personal support to help:

  • identify your employment needs
  • identify and match your skills to available jobs
  • put you in contact with employers
  • find and access training to support you to find work, or gain the skills needed to allow you to do suitable work
  • learn how you can reduce the impact of health issues on your work

Intensive Personalised Employability Support

This is a programme of intensive one to one support and training to help those with disabilities or health conditions get into work.

It consists of a dedicated support worker who will:

  • identify what work you’re capable to do
  • match your skills to available work
  • find and access training to help you find work
  • build up a network of people to support you
  • manage work around your specific disability or health condition
  • provide you with support during your first 6 months of work

Intensive Personalised Employment Support is available for 15 months, with an additional 6 months of on-the-job support if you find employment.

Specialist Employability Support.

To apply for this you must:

  • have a disability or health condition that affects your ability to work
  • be unemployed
  • over school leaving age, and under state pension age
  • be a UK resident

You can only apply for Specialist Employability Support if you are not in receipt of support of another similar service.

Specialist Employability Support is available for 12 months and is typically provided by a support organisation. Some of the organisations that offer this support are:

You can apply for any of the above by contacting your local JobCentre Plus. To find yours see their “Local Office Search” on the gov.uk website.

Disability Organisations that support jobseekers

There are a number of organisations that support disabled people looking for jobs, some examples are below:

  • Action on Hearing Loss – can provide specific information and advice to deaf or hearing impaired job seekers.
  • Blind in Business – offer a number of services to those leaving education to support them in the transition to the workplace.
  • Leonard Cheshire – offer a number of services that can support disabled people to get into work, for instance, skills-based training in computers and learning how to run their own business.
  • Remploy – offer a series of programmes for students and graduates with disabilities.
  • Scope – their employment services support disabled people directly to find employment in public sector bodies and with local employers.
  • Disability Rights UK – provide information and advice to disabled young people in England, regarding opportunities in post-15 education and training.

Applying for Jobs

You may be eligible for an Access to Work grant if you need communication support at your job interview (e.g. a British Sign Language interpreter).

Questions about disabilities or health conditions

Employers cannot ask you questions regarding disabilities or health conditions before they offer you a job.

They can only ask you about this under certain conditions, such as:

  • making ‘reasonable adjustments’ for your disability at work – for example, if you need a large print version of a test
  • to decide if you can do something that is an essential part of the job

If you think you’ve been treated unfairly when applying for a job, you should contact the Equality Advisory Support Service. After that, if you have a case they will advise you to make a complaint to an employment tribunal (this must be done within 3 months of the incident).

Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships provide the opportunity to gain practical training by working in a real job-based role while also studying to gain the necessary skills and qualifications for a role. They are usually 4 working days a week, with one day spent studying. Apprenticeships typically last between 1 and 4 years depending on their level.

Almost all types of jobs have apprenticeships, so it’s worth doing your homework as to which type might suit you best. You can also talk to employment advisors in your local JobCentre Plus regarding this.

Whilst all employers should have a fair and equal selection process for apprenticeships, you may want to be on the lookout for the “Disability Confident” Employer badge. This demonstrates they have made a specific commitment towards hiring and retaining disabled people within their company. As a result of this commitment, they are likely to be able to better support you in any role.

To search for apprenticeships, see the gov.uk apprenticeship search tool.

For more information on finding and applying for apprenticeships, Disability Rights UK has a great “Into Apprenticeships” guide that takes you through the whole process.

Routes to Self Employment

There are a number of reasons to consider becoming self-employed, for instance, you may have an idea for your own business which would allow you to work in an environment you could tailor to suit your needs.

Your Disability Employment Adviser at your local JobCentre Plus should be able to help you assess if self-employment is a viable option for you. Additionally, they can point you towards sources of funding and support to help you get started.

Advisers should also be able to help you apply for a New Enterprise Allowance. This gives people getting JobSeekers Allowance access to business mentoring and a financial package (including an allowance payable over 26 weeks) allowing you to establish your business.

There are a number of organisations who support disabled people to become self-employed, these include:

Interview tips

Interviews can be a stressful enough situation for anyone, but when you factor in having a disability or major health condition into the equation it can make the experience tougher still. Our helpful tips should help you to plan for the occasion.

Investigate the location and its accessibility

Find out what you’ll need to know for the day, i.e. can you get to the interview room? Is there anything that would block a wheelchair? How far is the room from the carpark and do they have disabled parking spaces? Is there an accessible bathroom? Can you bring in a guide dog? The employer should let you know about these things beforehand, but if they don’t, make sure you ask. Remember you are entitled to be interviewed under the same conditions as any other candidate.

Prepare to answer standard interview questions

Most questions you will be asked in an interview are fairly predictable, take some time to work out and rehearse your responses to the most common/ obvious questions so you can simply use them when needed. Some employers like to include unexpected questions between the more obvious ones to see how well you can think under pressure, so having these prepared can be a big help.

Ask the right questions

Asking questions is a great way to demonstrate to a potential employer that you are genuinely interested in the position and the company. However, have you considered they’re also a way for you to demonstrate how you fit the role and assuage an interviewer’s concerns? Try to include a question that shows you’ve done your homework and researched the employer.

Be ready to discuss your CV

If you have any kind of long term health condition, whether it be physical or mental, it’s possible you have had a period of time unemployed while undergoing treatment. Any obvious gaps in employment history are likely to be picked up by an interviewer and they will likely ask you questions about this.
It’s important to remember that you aren’t the only one to have ever had a gap in their employment history because of illness, so don’t feel pressured into giving them the whole story (your medical history isn’t really any of their business). Keep your explanation simple and honest, i.e. had a period of illness and am now ready to rejoin the workforce.

Discussing your disability

You are not required to answer anything about your disability that makes you feel uncomfortable, however answering appropriate questions may help a potential employer to make reasonable adjustments. During the interview try to keep the focus on what you can do, and what sets you apart as a strong candidate, if an employer can see you are a better hire than other candidates, they are more likely to be willing to make those adjustments and hire you over someone else.

Have a portfolio of work ready to show

If the job you are applying for calls for it, bring a selection of your past work that you are proud of, or that makes you stand out. This is especially useful if you can refer to it during the interview as examples of what you’ve done.

Provide a letter of recommendation

If you’ve volunteered with a charity or had a good experience with a past employer, see if you can get a letter of recommendation you can leave with potential employers before you leave

Support in the Workplace

Access to Work Scheme

The Access to Work scheme is available for those in paid work, or who are about to begin or return to work. If you have a disability or physical or mental health condition that makes it difficult for you to do your job, you can:

  • discuss with your employer about reasonable adjustments they must make to your workplace
  • gain extra help from Access to work, including mental health support

Reasonable adjustments

Making reasonable adjustments means making sure you are not significantly disadvantaged when doing your job. For instance, changing your work hours or providing equipment to help you do your job.

Extra help

Access to work can provide extra help by paying towards:

  • Communication support at interviews
  • Special equipment to support your disability at work
  • Support workers
  • Travel to work, including taxi fares

Access to work comes in the form of a grant and does not have to be repaid. Under the scheme, 100% of the approved costs for someone starting a new job are paid. Additionally, they will meet 100% of the approved costs if you are self-employed and require support workers. ATW also contributes towards travel costs.

You can apply for Access to Work by contacting your local JobCentre Plus. To find yours see their “Local Office Search” on the gov.uk website.

Declaring a disability at work

You don’t have to inform an employer about your disability unless you’re asked direct questions about your health on a medical questionnaire. Additionally, due to the Equality Act 2010, employers may not ask questions about health that are unrelated to the role. However, you should be aware that if your health conditions are affecting your job role, then they are allowed to raise the issue with you.

Being open about your impairment is a personal decision. People often worry about discrimination, prejudice or lack of confidentiality. However, the main benefit of telling an employer is that it entitles you to greater protection under the Equality Act if you have a dispute at work.

Other advantages could include:

  • It could offer opportunities to show what you are capable of
  • Necessary workplace adjustments can be put in place earlier
  • Opportunity to build a better working relationship
  • The chance to explain things on your CV that might otherwise count against you, i.e. gaps in your education or employment history

Information about your disability or health condition is protected by the Equality Act and the Data Protection Act. As a result, it is classed as sensitive personal information, and cannot be passed onto others without your permission.

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Emma Steer updates us on her job and working with a disability

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