The rate of unemployment for disabled people deprives the UK of some outstanding talent says Prospects Chief Executive, Nick Bell, as he highlighted Sarah’s story, an intern currently working at the education, employment and training company.
Sarah landed a career straight out of university working in a school. She had everything going for her, a new career, a great degree and a happy relationship. However, Sarah’s new life soon turned sour when it became clear her disability was an issue for her employers. At work she felt belittled and was told daily her disability was causing her to fail. She was micro-managed and her mistakes highlighted. Unsure whether this was the workplace culture or because of her disability Sarah asked for support and adjustments, but neither was forthcoming.
Unsurprisingly Sarah felt bullied and harassed.
The stress and victimisation had a massive effect on Sarah’s wellbeing. She struggled to sleep, woke up in the night panicking about work or failed to get to sleep in the first place. Sarah was stressed all the time and this had an effect on her relationship. Her confidence plummeted and she hit rock bottom.
It was then that Sarah contacted Leonard Cheshire Disability and found out about Change100, an internship programme which matches disabled students and graduates with employers for a three-month long internship, mentoring and workshops on employment. Since its launch in 2014, Change100 has partnered with more than 50 employers across the UK including Barclays, BBC, Skanska, Lloyds and Taylor Wimpey.
Sarah left her job, wanting a fresh start in a supportive environment. She applied for the Leonard Cheshire Change 100 internship programme. The recruitment process was rigorous, but inclusive. Sarah attended an assessment centre designed to be as disability friendly as possible; there was no parametric testing or writing, instead tasks were based on problem solving, group working and a presentation.
The Change 100 team paired Sarah with Prospects, which joined Change 100 in 2014 when the programme launched. Before Sarah started, Change100 spoke to Prospects about her disability. Together they ensured everyone Sarah would be working with understood the difficulties she could potentially have in the workplace.
Sarah’s first day at Prospects was nerve-racking. She was worried she would experience some of the issues she had in her last job. However, knowing Prospects had signed up to Change100 she hoped they would have an open view on disability. By the end of her first morning she knew things would be very different at Prospects.
Sarah says: “Over my first few weeks I kept worrying that someone would tell me I couldn’t do my job because of my disability, however, this didn’t happen. I was in a supportive environment where my team and managers were understanding. The adjustment and support from everyone around me made it easy. The attitude to disability at Prospects is great and this is the critical difference between my previous job and why I wake up every day looking forward to going to work. I am also pleased to say whilst at Prospects no one has ever said anything unkind about my disability.”
Prospects is committed to making a difference to people’s lives, both as a Disability Confident Employer and as a Leader in Diversity. Chief Executive, Nick Bell comments: “At Prospects we support more than 500,000 vulnerable people each year. We have strong values and believe in inspiring people and developing everyone’s potential. Our work across the country reflects our values, we are innovators in supporting young people to get into work and learning, we enable hundreds of people to break the cycle of offending through the National Careers Service In Custody service and have an exceptional track record of helping people back into work through the government’s Work Programme and Work Choice in the south west.
“Knowing that if the employment rate for disabled people matched that of the rest of the UK, an extra two million people would be working is an unacceptable statistic, it limits individual’s life chances and deprives the UK of some outstanding talent. At Prospects we are working to change this statistic.”
Madeleine Rogerson, Youth Employment Officer at Leonard Cheshire Disability commented: “It’s great to see how Prospects have championed inclusivity in the workplace through their involvement with the Change100 programme since its launch in 2014. We look forward to working with Prospects to find more talented interns to join the business in the future.”