Disabled young people may be held back from getting on the career ladder, going on to further education or work-based training — because they fail to get the support or encouragement they need at an early age.
A Leonard Cheshire Disability commissioned survey of disabled people in the UK who had their disability at school revealed barriers to gaining employment, education, or training existed even at that age.
Half (51%) of 18-30 year-old adults surveyed said their teachers may have had lower expectations of them because of their disability. Around half (47%) also said they were not encouraged to go on to a course or pursue their chosen career.
At the age of 26, disabled people are nearly four times more likely to be unemployed.
Leonard Cheshire Disability is now launching a campaign to ensure all people who want to work have the opportunity to do so.
Opportunities to improve confidence, gain workplace skills or get a taste of different types of work appear to have been lacking for many.
Leonard Cheshire Disability’s new Untapped Talent campaign is calling on the government to provide more support so that disabled people have the same chances to fulfil their potential as everyone else.
The charity believes a government pledge to close the employment gap between disabled people and others of working age is being undermined by a lack of vital help at critical stages in people’s lives.
More access to tailored programmes that address the obstacles experienced by disabled people, nurture talent and create new opportunities is desperately needed, says Leonard Cheshire Disability’s chief executive Neil Heslop.
The government has pledged to get one million more disabled people into work but progress has been pitifully slow — meaning hundreds of thousands of disabled people who want to work are left on the side lines.
The employment gap between disabled people and the wider population currently stands at around 31%.
Research shows that disabled people struggle to get support at various critical points in their efforts to get a job, access volunteering, or even stay in employment once they beat the odds. Often access to funding for basic provisions such as adapted keyboards or British Sign Language interpreters just isn’t there.
Leonard Cheshire Disability runs a wide variety of award-winning employment and volunteer schemes to help disabled people gain new skills, gain confidence and move towards independence.
Registered blind Glasgow university graduate Matthew Clark, 24, from Surrey, who is taking part in Leonard Cheshire’s Change100 programme, said:
‘Despite all efforts, I have never been able to secure paid work through a mainstream internship or job application process that was not run for the benefit of or concerned with equal opportunities for people with disabilities.
‘I even felt the part time or seasonal jobs associated with students were inaccessible and off limits to me.’
Leonard Cheshire Disability chief executive Neil Heslop said:
‘With the right support we know that disabled people can thrive in workplaces, bringing a wealth of talent and experience that businesses and other organisations benefit from enormously.
‘Often this only requires relatively small changes to equipment or adaptations, or some support getting to and from work.
‘Sadly, all too often disabled people are being unnecessarily locked out of opportunities because this is not there or being cut.
‘This is a huge loss to the economy and has massive impact on people’s lives.
‘We urgently need to increase the availability of programmes that can help unlock the potential of disabled people. These need to be flexible enough to support people whether they are just starting out or are affected by disability later on in their lives.’