Sam's response to Chloe Smith's speech at the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
On June 15th, an important day in the calendar was marked, as the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Chloe Smith, spoke at the 15th Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
I’m pleased to be able to report that in May of this year, the UK government met their objective from 2017 to help 1 million more people find jobs. This goal was achieved in half the expected time- so definite credit to them there! The next part of the government agenda is to prevent health-related job losses and there is definitely so much more that could be done to ensure people with disabilities remain fulfilled in their working environment and to provide support to help them retain their job, even if their health condition fluctuates.
From my perspective as someone with a disability trying to find and retain work, one of the tools which have really helped me is having a workplace mentor who has a greater depth of understanding about disabilities and/or mental health challenges. This has helped me enormously in feeling able to discuss matters leading to general improvement for me. I think this would hugely benefit many people with disabilities as something that I think is under-estimated for many disabled workers is the need for clarity. What I mean by this, is ensuring directions are understood and being aware of the impact changes to routine can have.
It goes without saying that many disabled people just want to achieve peak productivity in meaningful employment. Having a toolkit of strategies available is therefore key for disabled people in work. In addition, continuing to develop skills that ensure disabled people are employed at a level appropriate to their skills and aspirations should be a priority; far too many people (and not just those with disabilities) experience under-employment simply because they haven’t had access to appropriate skills development or understood what their career opportunities might be. In today’s world, assistive technology solutions can overcome so many barriers to work for people with disabilities and many could be broadening their career goals if they were aware of these. In terms of my own personal circumstances, I am always on the lookout for ways I can contribute and be an effective member of a team- but this isn’t always an easy task for those with additional support needs. I would describe myself as a proactive person, but I often find myself being a more reactive, doing-what-I’m-told kind of individual. However, this doesn’t mean that I’m not proactive in any sense and with the support of a mentor I am encouraged to work more proactively, asking questions and suggesting ways in which I could contribute more effectively. It can just take a lot of energy to get to that point and for me to identify what my end goal is and therefore how I get there.
If the Government is really committed to this and taking the next step, one of my recommendations would be that it is made mandatory for their Disability and Access Ambassadors to undertake specialist training in order to really understand the needs of employees, employers and commissioners. Recruiters also need the tools to assess potential in a different way in order to establish talent and capability. I would also be very interested to know what the 19 different sectors are that have been identified for Disability and Access Ambassadors.
At Enrych, we pride ourselves in being leaders in how we are empowering our clients and service users to choose the ways in which they want to achieve social inclusion and independence. Many of those we serve are engaged in volunteering opportunities as they prepare to increase their skills for employment. Our clients would not have this confidence if it weren’t for the work of our excellent PA service and we are working on how we extend this to enable them to consider work as another outcome. As we grow as an organisation, it becomes of greater priority for us to respond to what the government is doing, help it to deliver on its commitments to people with disabilities and hold politicians to account both personally and collectively if they do not.
By analysing government policy surrounding those with disabilities, we aim to help those we serve to find a multitude of opportunities to work in a setting where they feel valued and included. I have experienced first-hand just how challenging it was to seek employment in a setting where I saw a fit and I knew I could achieve my full potential. Now that I am working with Enrych, I have no doubts. I feel very much a part of the team and I know I can help add value to that team and play a role in helping those we serve to achieve their goals, whatever these might be. Together we should be doing everything we can to ensure there are no barriers to people with disabilities achieving their goals and aspirations.