The government’s Access to Work programme provides practical support to help you stay in work or get a job if you are disabled or have a health condition. It is run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Employment Group (EG) straddles different government departments and organisations involved in the support, education and employment of Deaf and hard of hearing people. The Group aims to better support those entering employment or transitioning from education into job markets.
The EG endeavours to take the lead on the job issues that have been impacting the Deaf community. In this respect the EG continues efforts from previous years with Access to Work but also concentrates on the pertinent job issues of the gig economy such as volunteering, self-employment, and entrepreneurship.
We are discussing issues with partner organisations and have received positive responses and willingness to consider changes. This is expanding the EG beyond Access to Work issues.
Discrimination in employment situations
In the current climate, many Deaf people have either lost jobs or have been asked to reduce hours, especially Deaf in the manual labour sector. Those Deaf people are then often asked to apply or reapply for a similar job to re-join the company they used to work for. To do this, they have to undertake interviews with mainstream candidates, who are often upfront. Prior to these applications the Deaf are missing out on information on re-training opportunities or up-skilling due to the obvious reasons of communication barriers, so even before they start they are often left at a disadvantaged position where they have to compete for scarce jobs with mainstream candidates.
Employers are not always quick to pick up on these problems and rectify them in the forms of adjustments necessary to support Deaf people.
Aims for the future
Our experience has taught us that there will be room for improvement and input from our reinvigorated EG in working broadly with DWP and other central government departments.
For example, we would like to offer support to young people who are moving from education into employment. This is traditionally an often neglected area because usually the funding schemes available to young people do not overlap but exclude them from the ability to make a smooth transition. For this purpose, we believe that modernisation and levelling up the efforts of the EG are not only necessary but are also needed, welcomed and currently missing.
Changes made by the DWP
By having an agreed vision, organisations that work with and support deaf and deafblind people have convinced the DWP to make some changes. They include:
- more and better guidance
- more awareness training for advisers Job Centre officials and other agencies
- publishing the Access to Work guidance for advisers
- allowing people to contact them by email or use BSL video
- a pilot of personal budgets
- quicker responses to requests
Of course, not everything has been fixed yet and problems still come up. If you need help or advice please send us your story now.