Helping disabled people to work

What do you think: • Bully or buddy – which will be more successful in encouraging disabled people back to work?   • Voluntary or mandatory – which deserves the employment support resources?   • Work for Yourself disabled client features on BBC TV programme.

Over recent weeks, I’ve been responding to several consultation papers issued by the UK and Scottish Governments related to disabled people and work.  Some key thoughts were:

  • Bully or buddy – which will be more successful in encouraging disabled people back to work?  I have spent literally hours over the last week answering phone calls after one of our Work for Yourself clients, David Harding, was featured in the BBC TV Saints and Scroungers programme.  They have all been people with long-term health conditions – some have lasted for years – desperate to get back to work, unable to find the advice and support they need and searching for someone prepared to listen and offer ideas.    Often they talk about experiencing hostile and de-humanizing attitudes (inflamed by negative stereotyping in the media and politics) so that they won’t risk contact with agencies supposed to help – even if they know about them.  Imagine if you are already feeling pretty wretched, depressed and useless from coping with a long-term health problem that has stopped you working, impacted on your finances and stressed family life.  You don’t know where to turn, are fearful of risking benefits and, often, have had bad experiences seeking help in the past.  You probably want someone who is empathetic and has time to provide practical help across the whole range of difficulties.  You don’t want someone motivated by targets, caseloads and rigid processes but a friendly helping hand to get through the minefield of problems.
  • Voluntary or mandatory – which deserves the employment support resources?  Few are likely to disagree with the goal of helping another million disabled people get back to work.  But let’s give top priority to helping every one of them who is already keen to do so rather than using a stick on the rest.  Success rates are likely to be higher with volunteers, motivation is more likely to attract employers while role models of achievement show the reluctant what is possible in the future.  Let’s capitalise on all those disabled people already keen to work and change attitudes across the board before expending time and effort on the remainder.

Penny Melville-Brown

Disability Dynamics ltd

Helping disabled people to work since 2000