Individual care and kindness are key to return-to-work help.

What do you think?

  • Sticks or carrots more successful when getting people back to work?
  • “Whole person” approach needed for successful employment support?
  • Great back-to-work support won’t succeed unless it is flexible enough to be shaped around each client?
Help to work partners share their know-how so that you can work

Help to work partners share their know-how so that you can work

Enthusiastic Help to Work partners met last week to catch-up on each others’ services, share information and find new ways of working together.  There are about 40 partner organisations helping residents of Bolsover District (and further afield) to get off benefits and back to work – visit and click on Organisations.  When I asked each of them about the key to their success, the unanimous response was that “our clients come first”   .

“We listen, are supportive and approachable,” was the view of Hilary from the East Midlands Chamber, “We want to give them the best support possible across a whole network of organisations and something that suits them best.”  The YMCA’s Cheryl had a similar approach: “We run small classes where we can give everyone the individual support they need.”

All of the partners can assist people with long-term health conditions/disabilities and some such as Hayley from Mencap specialise: “We offer a very person-centred service – they take the lead in everything we do.”  “Empathy and understanding are the keys to our success,” said Dave from Goddards about help for Employment and Support Allowance recipients, “Several of the team have been in very similar situations so we understand how it can feel when the system seems stacked against you – and how you can come through it.”

“We give one-to-one personal support so that our young people always know that they have someone they can rely on and turn to – whatever the problem,” emphasised Jaime from Talent Match, “And we’re not scary but not push-overs either.”    Other young people have taken up apprenticeships with Bolsover District Council as Helen explained, “The staff at the Council are brilliant in the support they give the apprentices and in the quality of the work experience they provide – it’s not just photocopying and filing but really getting a start to working in the public sector.”

Talking about self-employment and business start-up support, Jamie from The Prince’s Trust said, “We want to do the right things for young people: having the patience to let them develop what they want to do – often they change their business ideas several times and we have the flexibility to help them do so.”      Talent Match’s Rachel echoed this approach: “Listening to my clients means that I can understand where they are in life and where they want to be – then it’s my job to get them there.  I’m helping them to become self-employed and start their own businesses – but lots go off in different directions as there are many ways of succeeding.”

But self-employment can work for other people too with the type of support offered by Paul of Clowne Enterprise: “Understanding their personal needs – it’s more than just making a business work but making sure that the owner is on top of every aspect of life and the new venture.”

“Matching the right people to the right opportunities – so that they are doing something they love,” said Richard from the Volunteering Centre as he championed voluntary work as a step towards a job.

There’s practical help too such as the Wheels to Work scheme as Sandie explained: “We aim to remove the transport barriers for people who want help to access the future – help with bikes, mopeds, travel costs and more – anything to stop transport being a barrier.”  Community Voluntary Partners (CVP) are also fully involved: “Providing information and networking opportunities for the community and voluntary sector,” said representative Heather, “We help them find out more about how to work together and support local people to get backing to employment.”

For more information, go to the website or e-mail

Penny Melville-Brown

Disability Dynamics ltd

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

Official data confirms disability as top discrimination issue.

What do you think:

  • Do disabled people complain most or do we have more to complain about?
  • Disability discrimination causes most calls on Government service.
  • Work is top disability discrimination issue.

Recent data from the Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS) shows that a massive proportion of all their calls in August (not far off two thirds) related to discrimination concerns for people with long-term health conditions/disabilities.

This isn’t just a flash in the pan but matches trends reported by EASS at their conference earlier in the year: UK wide, disability issues were at 62% across 12 months’ data – at a level of about four times that of race (15%) and eight times that of sex (8%).  (See the year’s data here and search Conference Word)

So disability issues are by far the biggest cause of discrimination concerns within which   work accounts for 55%, followed by Services and public functions at 26% – it is not all about lifts and ramps (premises were only 4%!)

With disabled people being only about 20% of the population, this level of contact with EASS is too disproportionately high to be ignored. There are doubtless some individuals and organisations making full use of the Service but other groups concerned with race, sex etc are likely to be similarly active.  Population proportions aren’t the explanation either as the level of disabled people is not even twice that of black and ethnic minorities (let alone four times) while sex or gender is close to 50:50.

Instead, the data shows that the Service is primarily dealing with disability discrimination and mainly issues to do with employment.  If we want to reduce the numbers claiming sickness benefits, tackling such high levels of workplace discrimination is worth every penny.  Hopefully the House of Lords Select Committee’s review of Equality Act enforcement will add some much-needed muscle.

The EaSS can help resolve concerns informally, including writing to the organisation in issue.  Contact them:

Telephone 0808 800 0082

Textphone 0808 800 0084

Email via website

Post to FREEPOST Equality Advisory Support Service FPN4431

Webchat Available via website

BSL provided through partner Royal Association for Deaf People. More information on homepage.

Penny Melville-Brown

Disability Dynamics ltd

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

Work programme fails disabled people

What do you think: Is £1,200 enough to fund help for a disabled person to get back to work? Are other employment support initiatives out-performing the Work Programme in relation to disabled people? If only 15% of disabled people on the Work Programme achieve job outcomes, what happens to the rest?

In June, Inclusion analysed the performance of the Work Programme over the four years since it started:

  • a success for those who are more work ready and receiving JSA;
  • much less successful for those distant from work as, for ESA claimants, less than 15%, and in some cases less than 10%, have achieved a sustained job outcome within two years.
  • They say: “People with a disability and those aged 50 and over are the least successful in getting a job through the Work Programme.”

“Performance for ESA (and disabled people in general) remains low. However, DWP have now separated out the New ESA Claimants group into two parts – one for those who were originally expected to go on the programme, and a second one for the expanded group with a 12-month expectation before they would be fit for work.  The original group shows a strong and welcome increase in performance. The second group, with a longer period before being fit for work, continue to have low job outcomes.”

Work Programme outcomes are:

“Women (at 25.6%) have higher Job Outcome rates than men (at 24.1%).

People with a disability (at 15.1%) have low Job Outcome rates. Many people with a disability are in the JSA payment groups as well as in the ESA payment groups.

By ethnicity, BAME participants have slightly higher Job Outcome rates than white participants.

By age, young participants have the highest performance, and the over-50s have the lowest performance.”

“We estimate that DWP has paid providers an average of £1,094 for each participant referred.   The average spend so far is not the same as what the total average spend per participant will be once they have all finished the programme (as some participants are only part-way through their time with providers). We have modelled total spend per participant based on current performance and referrals, and estimate that it will be £1,187.”

Penny Melville-Brown

Disability Dynamics ltd

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

Damson chilli Jam

Worth a try: • Damson chilli jam that uses the tail-end of the crop.

I mentioned that I’d made up this recipe a few weeks ago – using all those tiny and unripe damsons that aren’t worth much other effort.  It has been popular here:

2lb 4 oz small unripe damsons – stones in.

2 thumbs ginger – keep them small thumbs to avoid overwhelming the fruit.

2 chillies de-seeded

3 cloves garlic

2 tbsp fish sauce

2 tbsp dark soy sauce

12 oz sugar (with 8 oz it was still pretty tart).

Quarter pint cider vinegar

Just cover the   damsons with water and poach until soft and can remove stones when cooled – might need to put through a sieve.  If removing the stones by hand, it’s worth counting the damsons in to the pot and the stones out!

Finely grate/chop ginger, garlic and chilli – could do in a food processor.

Add all remaining ingredients except sugar to pan and return fruit pulp.

Bring to simmer, add sugar and cook until done then pot in to warmed and sterilised jars.

Good with cold meats, ham, cheese etc.  I’m going to use the riper ones to make damson gin!

Poor health means poor work prospects

What do you think:

  • Improving health and upskilling must be part of helping people to get back to work?
  • If better education improves skills leading to better jobs with less health risks, would we increase overall employment?
  • Are failings in education the root cause of high unemployment for people with long-term health conditions?
  • Is there any point in employment support without tackling poor health?

Catching up on summer reading, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation June report reveals just how significant poor health and low skills can be when unemployed people try to get jobs, stay in work, increase their wages and progress to full-time, permanent employment.  All of this resonates with current thinking that there needs to be much closer links between Jobcentres and the NHS when tackling unemployment.

Having a disability isn’t necessarily always associated with “poor health” (as many Para Olympians demonstrate) but there’s no doubt that many of those claiming benefits due to long-term health conditions will say that their health is poor.  We would all want them to have a better chance of working – with all the financial and social benefits that this can bring.  But the report suggests that work is not always going to lift them out of poverty because:

  • When people with poor health are employed, their jobs are more precarious, lower paid and more likely to be part-time and temporary.
  • People with poor mental health or drug/alcohol misuse can fare even worse.

However, it seems that having more skills can offset the disadvantages of poor health.  Which does beg the question as to whether having skills in the first place (and so avoiding those jobs with higher health risks) helps reduce the likelihood and/or consequences of poor health.  Perhaps it all goes back to the success (or not) of the education system?

Here are a couple of quotes from the report (the layout is mine):

  • “individuals who report poor health are significantly more likely to move
  • from employment to unemployment,
  • from permanent to temporary contracts,
  • from full-time to part-time work and
  • from activity to inactivity.
  • Similarly, they are significantly less likely
  • to stay in employment,
  • to move from unemployment to employment,
  • to move into a full-time job and
  • to move into a permanent job.

This section (of the report) also presented evidence which highlights that individuals with poor health are less likely to move out of low-pay employment and are more likely to move into low-pay employment.”

“Although this does not establish a causal relationship between poor health and labour market disadvantage, it is nevertheless informative and revealing about the importance of good health in relation to the labour market performance of individuals in Britain.”

“A more sophisticated statistical investigation than the one presented here would be needed to investigate the causal impact of health and qualifications on the labour market performance of individuals. Nonetheless, the results reported here suggest that while having poor health is not the only issue associated with relatively unfavourable labour market transitions, it is a principal one, and a lack of qualifications exacerbates the problem. Putting it differently, having some formal qualifications can mitigate the adverse relationship between poor health and labour market performance.

The evidence presented here suggests that for some labour market transitions (such as those involving movements from unemployment to different employment types) the lack of skills seems to be more important than poor health.

However, for other transitions, such as for staying in employment, as well as for the passage from activity to inactivity, health seems to matter more than skill.

However, no clear picture emerges from this analysis of whether qualifications or health status is more important for transitions into low-pay and into temporary work.

One thing that can be said with a little more certainty is that the presence of qualifications seems to have a mediating effect on the negative labour market experiences associated with ill health.

Also, as in the previous section, the results are stronger when mental health is used as the health indicator than when physical health status is used.”

If you are involved in employment support or public health, the report’s Section 7 covering Summary, conclusions and policy implications is worth a read.

Penny Melville-Brown

Disability Dynamics ltd

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

Inaccessible health care penalises disabled people

Did you know? Inaccessible health care probably causes long-term health problems for some disabled people. Cross Country Trains abdicate responsibility for disabled passenger.

I talked about the Chief Medical Officer’s report a couple of weeks ago and how blind people are “more likely to have other long-term health conditions”. I think a key aspect of this is how difficult and expensive it can be for us to participate in health care. I moaned on about one hospital since and here’s another example:
This week I had one of those routine mammograms – the one where they squeeze your boobs in some clunking machine (one wonders as to the gender of the inventor!). The clinical staff were excellent, professional and quick. But the surrounding processes just didn’t work. So, even though they know to send me the results by e-mail, the system can’t manage to do the same with the appointment details.
Lots of people can pop in to the mobile units when it is in their vicinity – but not some of us with impairments. Instead we have to trek off to the local hospital which is a £35 round trip by taxi or probably at least 5 hours by patient transport. But for those who can’t afford to use taxis or can’t take all that time off work, its no surprise that they wouldn’t manage to have the scan.
And even having checked that there would be someone available to escort me from reception to the appointment and arrived early, it would have been so useful to have known beforehand that it usually takes 20 minutes for that escort to arrive. Hence, late for appointment and one’s slot has been taken while the taxi meter ticks away!
The only advantage is that, if you have a disabled parking card, you get 24 hours parking compared with just the one hour that everyone else gets. Perhaps this reflects their assessment of how long it will take us to get our health care compared with others? I know, that’s rather churlish!
Once again, it’s not the medical and clinical care that falls short. It’s the management of the surrounding processes that just haven’t been thought through meaning that people don’t take part and their health suffers.

Disability Floristry Art

Disability Floristry Art

Bouquets of the week.
Two this time: To all the representatives of the Help to Work partners – organisations that help people get back to work. We ran a frantic and whirlwind “speed-dating” morning so that we could all learn what each other offers. Getting the rotation right so that everyone meets everyone else is trickier than you would think – and is utterly scuppered when some show up unexpectedly, split their groups and move in different directions! It was a bit like herding cats but thank goodness that so much enthusiasm, good will and flexibility meant that we all muddled through and got loads from it all. Huge thanks to everyone who came.
To the train staff who did their very best to help all of us passengers when our train was involved in a fatal incident later the same day. My heart goes out to the driver now coping with the enquiry after we hit someone on the track between Coventry and Leamington Spa – and to the family and friends of the person who was killed. We were all very subdued while waiting hours until the British Transport Police arrived to take charge and our train could move to the next station. Having decamped to the platform, two harried staff tried to manage the invasion. I declined their kind offer of a taxi taking me home from Leamington Spa – the next train was going to be quicker. Then a taxi from Winchester was organised but, when we got there, Cross Country Trains reneged on the offer. So, minutes later, I was at Southampton Parkway with no taxi home organised. Cross Country Trains wanted me to go even further by train, make yet another change and make the journey probably another hour longer! As it was, I still didn’t get home until over 9 hours after leaving Bolsover. My thanks to Leila of the train team who explained the loo to me – cleaner than I’d expected – but she now has to retire as she can’t manage to push the heavy refreshment trolley any more! They’ve lost a great member of staff.

Yours wearily,

Penny Melville-Brown

Disability Dynamics ltd

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

Work is good for you and there’s help to do it.

Did you know? Work is good for you and there’s lots of free help available.

Bolsover District and Chesterfield Borough both have very high levels of people with long-term health conditions/disabilities due to the legacy of the former mining industry. And these large numbers of people have particular problems finding work for all sorts of reasons: local economy, employer attitudes, personal circumstances etc.
The Help to Work partnership includes organisations that can offer every sort of free help: health and finances through training and volunteering to job applications and self-employment. We understand the needs and challenges faced by disabled people – and some of us are specialists
Now the partners are using the internet, Facebook and Twitter (@helptowork1) as part of our media campaign promoting the help to Bolsover District residents.
We are looking for new partners, employers wanting to promote vacancies plus local residents who share our vision that life can be better when you are working – and want to make the most of the free help on offer. For more information:

140806 - Flowers 2

Bouquet of the week Disability Floristry Art

Mary, stalwart of the British Federation of Women Graduates, bon viveur and indomitable spirit, who dismisses the continuous challenges of ill-health to remain the decided matriarch of her family and celebrate her 80th birthday.

Yours admiringly,

Penny Melville-Brown

Disability Dynamics ltd

Helping disabled people to work since 2000