Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

People with complex disabilities facing barriers to work

Half of jobseekers with complex disabilities feel they do not have the support and equipment they need to look for work, according to new polling by the charity Sense.

The research found that there was lack of support while looking for roles, inaccessible recruitment practices and unsympathetic employers.

Furthermore, outdated technology is preventing people from accessing the labour market, and Sense found that not a single computer at Jobcentres had specialist assistive tech. Around a third (31%) of respondents said that having this technology would help them to find work.

Specialist employment services are needed

The research is based on the responses of more than 1,000 people with complex disabilities, all of whom were looking for work or were in employment between 25 and 31 January 2023.

Sense also found that over half (52%) of people with complex disabilities in work said they’d taken a less challenging role because of their needs as a disabled person not being met.

However, around half (47%) of the respondents said that specialist employment services would better enable them to enter and stay in work, and Sense is now calling on job centres to become more inclusive, so that people with complex disabilities have the best chance of finding work.

More funding needed to ensure Jobcentres are accessible

The charity wants to see the Department for Work and Pensions introduce a Jobcentre Assistive Technology Fund. This Fund would cost £5 million and would supply every jobcentre with basic assistive technology to meet the needs of disabled people.

The includes the addition of assistive software (such as screen readers, specialist screen magnification software and speech-to-text software) and additional hardware (such as refreshable braille display and headphones).

Sense is also calling on the Department for Work and Pensions to:

  • Pilot and fund a mentoring programme for disabled people looking for work.
  • Make the requirements for Disability Confident accreditation more rigorous. Disabled people should be given a role in holding Disability Confident employers to account.
  • Fund more specialist employment programmes to work in partnership with Job Centre Plus. This funding must include provision of assistive equipment.

Government must work closely with charities to improve opportunities

Sense says that by implementing these measures, the government will be a step closer to closing the disability employment gap.

As the report concludes: “Everyone who wants to work should get the support they need to do so. Our research shows that many jobseekers with complex disabilities miss out on this support. Work Coaches and Disability Employment Advisors often don’t have the expertise they need to help disabled people overcome the employment barriers that they face. Jobcentres, meanwhile, lack the assistive technology that some disabled people need to look for work. This must change.

“We welcome the Commitment made in the Budget ‘to remove the barriers that stop people who want to from working.’ But these steps will not work unless the Department for Work and Pensions partners with disabled people to make sure that jobcentres can offer the right specialist support. Here at Sense, we are ready to work with the Government to help them do that.”

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