25 Jul 2013

Is employment equality working for disabled people?

After the London Paralympics, has anything changed for disabled people? Katie Razzall looks at the barriers to work if you are disabled – and asks what is being done to change things.

A transcript of the video above, for deaf and hearing impaired viewers, follows below.

News presenting – just one of the jobs being practiced by Andrew and Thomas from Wren Spinney Community Special School in Kettering…Our visit not quite a world exclusive on their weekly news show for pupils. Birthdays though are a regular feature.

Aidan has an encyclopaedic memory for birthdays. His obsession with them made him a perfect fit for birthday correspondent – and he quickly remembered mine…

I met the Wren Spinney pupils last year selling sweets…These students, who all have severe learning disabilities, are given a unique opportunity – working in their own sweet shop in the heart of their local community – and now they’re turning their hand to something else.

Debbie asks: so is this sectioning, Andrew?

With the sweet shop in profit, they’ve branched out into hairdressing and newsreader Andrew is loving his new skills.

I like making girls hair look beautiful, he says. The youngsters must leave school soon and it’s imperative they learn skills for the future. It’s all about discovering exactly what their talents are – and putting them to good use… and that includes never forgetting a birthday.

Heacteacher Debbie Withers says: It’s about giving them the best possible start in life and start of journey.

There’s real vision here. It’s not just about giving work experience but changing the view of what disabled people can achieve.

But out of school, in the real world, how well do disabled people fare?

Estimates suggest a million who want to work are unemployed. And research published last week said disabled people cite employers’ attitudes as a bigger barrier to work than transport.

Richard says: “I’ve got enough rejection letters at home to cover my house twice over.”

“I applied for 1923 jobs, average of 6 a day… I think in a lot of cases businesses are scared to employ disabled people.”

Knowing the barriers disabled people face getting jobs, Richard decided to do something positive. He now runs his own disability training company to help dispel the myths employers have about hiring disabled people.

“What I say to employers is it’s perfectly possible to employ disabled people and it can bring a range of benefits.”

Getting employers to recognise that requires a change in attitudes and that’s what Whizz Kidz does. The charity’s always provided wheelchairs – but now it also arranges work placements for young disabled people.

Their new report, out tomorrow, shows that for every one pound they invest in them, the state saves up to 49 pounds.

The latest placement for this whizzkid George is at RBS.

He says I’ve learnt a lot. Learnt a lot. Confidence. On previous placement employer told me they wouldn’t be afraid of employing disabled people now!

But it’s not just down to individual disabled people to prove themselves. Employers have a duty to treat them fairly.

Young disabled people don’t have the same opportunities as other young people

There’s a big mystique around disabled people – trying to break that down through work experience.

Computer whizz Sanjay doesn’t have to leave if he doesn’t want to. After placements through the charity – he now has a job.

Sanjay says: “I might’ve got a job without Whizzkidz, but the tangible skills from my internship really helped. Disabled people don’t need to be scared – everyone’s been lovely.”

It’s time for me to put their hairdressing skills to the test. The plan here is that the actual haircuts are left to the professionals… though some of the pupils have other ideas.

Aidan may never be let loose on the scissors… but what’s happening here is cutting edge. But out in the real world, what chance is there for these youngsters when they leave the safety of the school environment?