#DisabilityWorks debate: Valuing disabled people in the workplace

Members of the #DisabilityWorks Round Table panel.
Members of the #DisabilityWorks Round Table panel.
0
Have your say

A woman with learning difficulties has risen to become team leader at a Sheffield contact centre, a round table heard.

The #DisabilityWorks campaign aims to show the benefits of employing disabled talent, for tailored recruitment support, go to: Click this link Or call 0114 2760039.

Business Round Table at The Star with David Walsh theme is our disability in work campaign

Business Round Table at The Star with David Walsh theme is our disability in work campaign

Anthony Hinchliffe, chief executive of Ant Marketing, said the ‘hard-nosed, target driven’ sales staff had warmed to her because she was ‘natural, people-oriented and genuine’.

And after hearing of problems recruiting companies to attend an employment fair for people with disabilities, he offered to put his staff on the case, with the aim of securing 50 firms.

They were just two of the inspirational comments at the event organised as part of The Star’s #DisabilityWorks campaign - which aims to show the benefits of recruiting disabled talent.

It was attended by 10 people including disability sector experts, HR managers, and private sector employers.

Lawyer Mark Serby, a director at Wake Smith solicitors, offered weekly work at the firm after hearing from social enterprise entrepreneur Mark Powell that people with learning difficulties could receive a boost from as little as two hours a week.

Mr Powell said: “People want to be valued, even if it’s just two hours a week making coffee, that defines them.”

The discussion also covered some of the schemes in Sheffield designed to bridge the gap between disability and employment - which can be a problem at small firms.

Dianne Wainwright, of The Source training centre, said: “The missing link is support available to employers. A lot of small firms haven’t got the knowledge, confidence or infrastructure.

Anthony Hinchliffe

Anthony Hinchliffe

“Larger companies have an HR department with experts. With small firms they wonder ‘can I do this or am I going to be in trouble?’.

“The Source can provide support, but we are not there every day of every week for an employee – ultimately the employer has to provide the right environment.”

Dave Edwards, of the DWP, said the answer was the Opportunity Sheffield initiative, a project being pioneered in the city.

He added: “It is an online gateway with tailored recruitment support behind it. You can chat about your needs and they can pull together what you need.”

Mark Serby

Mark Serby

The #DisabilityWorks campaign aims to show the benefits of employing disabled talent, for tailored recruitment support, go to: Click this link Or call 0114 2760039.

Workers with disabilities are ‘a fantastic asset’

The KnowHow call centre on the Parkway in Sheffield employs 1,600, of which 200 people have a declared disability.

But the company made adjustments for them because they are ‘a fantastic asset’, the discussion heard.

Kirstin Postlethwaite-Thomas, interim resourcing manager, said: “We try to go above and beyond. The whole building is fully accessible and we’re looking to improve that even more with a revolving door and card access to the disabled toilet.

“Experience shows people with disabilities are a fantastic asset.”

Emily Morton

Emily Morton

Some 270 people work at Meadowhall and 23 have declared disabilities.

HR manager John Lynch said a ‘welcome email’ was a useful tool.

He added: “With a new recruit, we send a welcome email to staff with a photo and a mention of a disability if they are comfortable with that. It might also outline how they might need help.

“Every time a role comes up we review the job description – there’s no reason why we can’t alter the role to fit to a person’s needs.

“We need to make sure the wording in job criteria is generic but encouraging, we don’t use the word ‘energetic’ for example because it implies running around and might exclude a wheelchair user.”

The discussion heard it was also a chance to mention the ‘right’ word to use to describe a disability.

Ms Postlethwaite-Thomas added: “We had an employee who wanted to be referred to as a dwarf and not a ‘little person’ because dwarf is the correct term.

“It’s easiest to ask the question, how do you refer to your disability? Some people might then respond that they don’t see themselves as a person with a disability at all.”

Mark Powell urged people not to worry too much about terminology.

He added: “You can’t please everyone and terms change. Some older people would say mentally handicapped and wouldn’t understand the term learning disability.

“It’s all about attitude in the end – you can say the right words in the wrong way.”

The #DisabilityWorks campaign aims to show the benefits of employing disabled talent, for tailored recruitment support, go to: Click this link Or call 0114 2760039.

Help is out there for workers and employers

Help is out there for disabled people preparing for work and employers looking to hire them.

South Yorkshire Housing Association is leading the £2.7m Building Better Outcomes project - set to launch in January - an intensive, personalised service for 642 people in Sheffield City Region who are ‘furthest from employment’ and have a range of complex needs.

Dr Simone Croft, of SYHA, said: “It offers work and employment coaches and trained counsellors for up to eight months.

“It tends to use a ‘place and then train’ strategy and identifies people and aims to work out what they want to achieve, then finds an employer willing to take that person on.”

Mark Powell said: “Just three per cent of people with learning difficulties in Sheffield have a job. ‘Place and train’ is, as far as I can see over 25 years, the only way to go.”

Emily Morton, of Disability Sheffield, said: “If you are in a recognised employer support group you can earn up to £115-a-week and it won’t affect your benefits, indefinitely.”

Dave Edwards said: “In Sheffield we are trialling something called the Small Employer Offer - for firms of 25 employees or less - which aims to bridge the disconnect.”

Firms can receive £500, following three months of employment, as well as access to work support and mental health and ‘fit for work’ services, a work coach and a community buddy.

n Work Choice is a government-funded programme that can help businesses employ a disabled person who needs specialist support. The providers in Sheffield are Remploy and Shaw Trust. Sheffield City Council also offers a similar service called Employer Champions.

n Access to Work – is for those who require reasonable adjustments – like funding towards equipment and resources, business travel or support workers. Claims can be up to £40,000 per individual.

n Disability Confident Scheme - it has replaced the Two Ticks disability symbol. It has three levels and encourages and helps equip employers to improve recruitment and retention of disabled people.

The #DisabilityWorks campaign aims to show the benefits of employing disabled talent, for tailored recruitment support, go to: Click this link Or call 0114 2760039.

In attendance:

David Walsh, Business Editor, The Star

Emily Morton, chief executive of Disability Sheffield, a charity and not-for-profit organisation

Anthony Hinchliffe, chief executive of Ant Marketing, a contact centre company that employs 450.

Dianne Wainwright, head of operations at The Source Skills Academy which helps people into employment, including those with disabilities

Mark Powell, director/trustee, Yes2Ventures Ltd, a social enterprise development agency which has set up Sheffield Wood Recycling, Reclaim, Busters Coffee and a travel support service.

Mark Serby, director and employment partner, Wake Smith Solicitors which employs 100

Dr Simone Croft, data and analytics manager at South Yorkshire Housing Association.

John Lynch, Meadowhall human resources manager. The centre has 270 staff.

Kirstin Postlethwaite-Thomas, interim resourcing manager – contact centres, at Dixons Carphone (KnowHow) call centre

Dave Edwards, DWP, heads up the new Disability Confident campaign.

The #DisabilityWorks campaign aims to show the benefits of employing disabled talent, for tailored recruitment support, go to: Click this link Or call 0114 2760039.

Mark Powell

Mark Powell

Kirstin Postlethwaite-Thomas

Kirstin Postlethwaite-Thomas

John Lynch

John Lynch

Dianne Wainwright

Dianne Wainwright

Dr Simone Croft.

Dr Simone Croft.