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Parliament: Assistance for Deaf People into Employment

dwplogo.jpgA question around deaf people and employment:

Sandra Gidley (Shadow Minister, Health; Romsey, Liberal Democrat)

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what mechanisms are in place to help deaf people into employment.

Stephen Timms (Minister of State (Employment and Welfare Reform), Department for Work and Pensions; East Ham, Labour)

We are committed to helping all people, including deaf people, into suitable, sustainable employment through Jobcentre Plus.

Access to Work can provide a range of individually tailored support to enable disabled people to enter or stay in employment. Access to Work can fund specialist support for deaf and hearing impaired people in work. One type of support that deaf people may find particularly helpful is the funding provided through Access to Work for British Sign Language Interpreters, Lip Speakers or Palantypists.

People with health conditions, including deaf people, may also benefit from the help that is available through Pathways to Work. This service provides extra support and opportunities to help people with health problems and disabilities gain employment and retain it. Pathways to Work provides a series of interviews with an adviser and access to programmes to increase skills or confidence, or to help manage a health condition. Financial incentives may also be available to help people move into work.

Disability Employment Advisers in Jobcentre Plus work with people needing more extensive support. They need not be receiving benefits and may be in employment but worried about losing their job due to their disability. Disability employment advisers can advise on appropriate employment opportunities, act as advocates on the customer's behalf, and negotiate with employers, as well as refer people, where appropriate, for an occupational health assessment, or draw on the professional expertise of work psychologists specialising in working with disabled people. Disability employment advisers can also advise on specialised support available for disabled people. This includes Work Preparation, WORKSTEP, New Deal for Disabled People where it is in operation, Residential Training Colleges, Job Introduction Scheme and Access to Work.

Between December last year and March of this year, we undertook a public consultation 'Helping people achieve their full potential: Improving specialist disability employment services'. The consultation sought views about ways in which the Access to Work programme and other programmes for disabled people could be further improved, and ways to enhance aspects of the disability employment adviser role. We will publish our response during the summer.

Comment from Alison:
Firstly the consultation was not made available in BSL, thus how can the Department of Works and Pensions even begin to claim it consulted with Deaf people? Consulting with your stakeholders is a legal requirement. The proposals in this consultation, would have an adverse effect on Deaf people by way of cutting back Access to Work funding for public bodies, including universities who are are often cash strapped. BSL is a recurring cost, and employees in these institutions would possibly experience undue hardship. Where was the equality impact assessment, and more importantly the government addressing solutions to ensure that BSL users are included, and their thoughts fed into this consultation process. Is the government breaking its own Disability Equality Scheme here?

As a wider note, all of the above schemes, whilst some might be positive in their own right smacks very much of sticking plasters over problems and not tackling root issues. This includes the perception of deaf people within society.

For example, the RNID last week was dancing around London making hearing people feel sorry for deaf people, and practically giving the message they cannot do anything. All in the name of fundraising. The same organisation purports to run employment services for deaf people, and get them into work. See the contradiction? Is it any wonder that a wider society gets confused. If mainstream attitudes were more positive, and an entrenched approach that deaf people are able to do xyz, then would there really be any widespread need for recurring employment services?

Recurring services suit deaf organisations down to a tee, because its an income stream. Deaf organisations in theory should be working towards a strategy to dispense of themselves, not working towards a longer term strategic goal to increase their annual turnover (which seems to be at the core of many 5 year plans). The latter, is somewhat ironic, and quite possibly goes against its own broad charitable objectives.

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Comments (1)

Jobcentre was a waste of space, one advisor took 20 mins of talking out of pushing me into a callcentre job. "I'm deaf you idiot!" didn't seem to work.

The disability employment advisor was worse, he found out that I was in my 2nd year of BSL level 2 so suggested I worked for the jobcentre as their interpreter cos "Level 2's fluent like"...

Once those two (un)helpful suggestions were dismissed the jobcentre told me that they couldn't see a way of overcoming my disabilities. They actually said they couldn't help me.

I made http://www.barakta.org.uk/deafjobcentre_wallet.jpg in response to the jobcentre constantly muttering my name across a crowded room. A deaf friend was penalised with cessation of money because she didn't hear them call her name and they refused to believe she'd been sat there for an hour not hearing them.

I'm working now via Scope's leadership recruitment programme which is quite good for deafies. I have Access to Work fun. Talking of whom, I have requested that they put email and fax details on their websites so that deaf people who do not have access to a textphone can contact them properly. I've used the FOI - repeated the request which AtW agreed to do a year ago for another deaf friend. They've got about 3 more weeks to respond to my request...

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