Disability confident committed

By Ceri Eades


By Ceri Eades

The Disability Confident is a government scheme that supports employers to make the most of the talents disabled people can bring to the workplace.

“7.6 million people of working age (16-64) reported that they had a disability in January-March 2019, which is 18% of the working age population. Of these, an estimated 3.9 million were in employment, an increase of 150,000 from a year previously. The Government has set a target of 4.5 million people with disabilities in employment by 2027” Research briefings (2019)

The unemployment rate for people with a disability was 8.0% in January-March 2019. This compared to an unemployment rate of 3.3% for people without disabilities.

Bluebird Care Shropshire signed up to the scheme with the support from our local job centre. The scheme provides advice and guidance to help think differently about disability, and improve how you attract, recruit and retain disabled workers.

Not only does signing up to the Disability Confident scheme help you to think about how you might make your workplace more accessible, it also demonstrates to your staff that you are committed to equality in the workplace, which is a good way to encourage employees to talk about disabilities that are often non-visible, including hearing loss and long term depression. 

We’ve been awarded the “committed” stage, which is stage 1, and our aim is to move forward into stage 2, and then hopefully stage 3. We are looking to help people into the workplace who are physically disabled as well as those with a mental health issue. There are many different types of mental health conditions which can lead to a disability, and employers need to be aware of what support is available out there in order to support these potential employees into the workforce and indeed current employees stay in employment.

We are very fortunate to already employ people with various disabilities as we employ people based on their caring nature, and what they have to give to others. We’re able to be more accepting of their condition and adjust their work in order to help them. There will be positions within the office as we grow and develop and we are open to employing more disabled people.

Employment opportunity starts from the vacancy posting including the application process, enabling those with a disability to be able to apply, for example if they need an alternative application form such as electrical or large print, we now have methods to be able to do that. It may also be that an interview is very difficult for someone to be able to come into, so we can adapt the interview process - it’s about making sure that everything is accessible for anyone.

So far we have been able to offer work flexibility, a work life balance, so our staff’s hours are reduced if needs be. Our on paper training has been adapted as well; we can support employees who may struggle with written aspects of the training including the care certificate. People with dyslexia for example can sometimes have difficulty writing on a white sheet of paper, so we can email it across to them so they can type; those are the smaller adaptions we’ve been able to make quite easily with the help of the disability confident award.

It’s about thinking outside the box and considering more about your pool of potential employees, and current employees and then supporting them if there are changes in their circumstance as well. It’s the employees’ responsibility to let us know if they have any health or medication changes that affect their lives or work, so that we can put systems in place to help that employee and potential new employees that come into the service.

We’re opening up the diversity of the staff pool, and that side of things helps our current employees- rather than having the same personality types coming through we have a nice mix of staff and they all bounce off each other, giving each other guidance and support, which then will benefit our customers. Our customers like a mix of people coming to them, the same as we all do. If we were all the same it would be a very boring society!

With regards to the wave of mental health awareness that is newly prevalent in the media, I think we’re taking steps in the right direction, but we do have a lot of work to do, like a lot of other employers out there. Mental health, anxiety, depression, all those conditions have now overtaken muscular skeletal issues with regards to employee absence. It’s something all employers must be aware of and sorting out genuine anxiety and depression versus pressure. Finding out what help is needed and talking to staff is paramount in this regard. It might be that we can or can’t help but we can definitely signpost and be aware of treating someone with a little bit more empathy and understanding.

There is a lot of work to do, but we are on the right track. Just as an example, our Director of Care, Claire Flavell, went on a mental health first aid course – which is a great start and we’re spreading it across the team as well. We want to be an employer of choice, and support new staff coming into the service, because we’re not looking for qualifications or highly skilled members of staff, we’re looking for people with amazing personalities, caring abilities that can be given to other people. Sometimes when you’ve had or are coping with conditions of your own it makes you more empathetic with others. It gives you a little bit more of an understanding about how others feel and knowing when to ask for help. We all like to be independent but sometimes we have to reach out and say “I’m not able to do this right now, can someone help me?”

Opening the pool of new staff that historically has been classed as “unemployable” by society, because of narrow minded views is something that Bluebird Care want to shy away from, we want to be different and open and offer opportunities if possible. We know we won’t be able to help everybody because of the physical aspect to the domiciliary care role, but we can certainly try.