It is well documented that the pandemic had a disproportionate effect on disabled people in terms of employment and isolation. Bearing in mind this inequality, EmployAbility is helping people bounce back into employment or vocational training following furlough or redundancy. With the disability employment rate just reported by the Office of National Statistics at 52.7% for Q2 2021, there is still a long way to go to close the disability gap.
Supporting disabled people into work during a pandemic
October 2020 was when the number of people supported by Surrey Choices and furloughed, peaked at 137. The good news is that since April 2020, only 30 placements have closed with redundancy given as the reason.
The Office of National Statistics Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates for October to December 2021, showed a continuing recovery in the labour market. This has been reflected in Surrey Choices’ own statistics. New placements of people into paid jobs, both over and under 16 hours a week, were higher during those three months than at any time during the Pandemic, and even when compared to the same period in 2019.
Work experience placements have been the slowest to see significant growth back to pre-pandemic numbers. “Between the first and third Lockdown, work experience placements were the most difficult to find,” recalls one of our Employment Support Specialists. With stay-at-home rules, then social distancing, and mortality rates still quite high, it was hardly surprising that most employers did not want to take the added risk of supporting vulnerable people on work experience. Rates picked up in May and June 2021, dipping over the summer holidays, and now continuing to see signs of recovery.
Employment barriers and successes
The Covid 19 pandemic has caused huge changes to everyday lives, and exacerbated the barriers disabled people face. Not only have disabled people been affected in terms of loss of life, but workplace barriers have been heightened by the pandemic.
Our Employment Support Specialists (ESS) have discovered that people they support are facing different challenges to those that they faced pre-Covid. Whether individuals are returning to their previous workplaces or looking for new opportunities, there is even more apprehension to overcome.
One person supported by Surrey Choices, who had been furloughed, was concerned about catching the virus. Employment Support Specialist, David, found her alternative ways to travel, so she would reduce her risk of infection. He helped her to feel confident enough to go back to work safely. In addition, the company she worked for provided essential PPE to keep her safe, as she returned to work.
Similarly, Employment Support Specialist, Jackie, was supporting someone to return to work in a care home during the pandemic. Jackie liaised with the person’s mother to provide, gentle encouragement, as her daughter was nervous about going back. They started off by setting her small targets to ease herself back into a routine. Jackie supported her by catching the bus with her to work and meeting her manager to discuss PPE and safety measures. Without that extra support it would have been extremely difficult for her, and others like her, to go back to work.
Unfortunately, not everyone has been able to find work during the pandemic. Jackie also supported someone to keep their morale up while they were looking for a job throughout multiple lockdowns. Jackie spoke countless times over the phone to keep an individual motivated, driven, and positive during his job search. He enrolled in online courses to improve his skills and put together an action plan. His mother described Jackie as a “Godsend” for her son during those tough times.
David and Jackie are just two examples of our professional, caring, and supportive EmployAbility team. Their support has made a positive difference to people’s wellbeing and their job opportunities.
Surrey Choices’ EmployAbility
Surrey Choices Supported Employment Service provides support for adults aged 18+ with disabilities and autism. The service is designed to progress people’s pathway towards employment. Our team is available to support job seekers employees and employers. As a Disability Confident Level 3 employer ourselves, Surrey Choices is well placed to work with organisations to help them think differently about disability. We can advise about how to take action and improve how they recruit, retain, and develop disabled people. There are several programmes that specifically help young people up to the age of 24 years to take steps toward employment. The EmployAbility team helps people develop skills at every stage of the employment process. Our skilled team supports people with day-to-day work practice to interview preparation. We believe every person should be given the right to gain meaningful employment.
How to get in touch
If you would like further information about EmployAbility or any of our services head to the Get in Touch page of our website.
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