Potential and Possibility 2024: Access to employment 

People with complex disabilities tell us what needs to change

Inadequate support means that many disabled people are being prevented from exploring and realising their potential through the world of work. 

One quarter of people with complex disabilities didn’t receive any support to look for and apply for jobs.

Source: Potential and Possibility research 2024

Everyone should feel valued in the workplace, be treated with dignity and given the support needed to excel. It’s unlikely that anyone would disagree with this statement, and yet many disabled people are being denied this experience.  

Of course, it’s true that employment isn’t right for every disabled person. But a job can be important part of someone’s identity and sense of purpose. Two thirds (66%) of people with complex disabilities who had a paid or voluntary role enjoyed it. So why aren’t more people getting an opportunity to explore this path? 

Employment processes that diminish instead of empower 

Looking for work is never easy, but for many people with complex disabilities, finding and staying in work is much harder than it should be. 

While most non-disabled people would expect recruitment processes to build up their confidence and empower them to embrace opportunities, disabled people risk being deflated and held back. Inaccessible recruitment practices, a lack of support while looking for roles and unsympathetic employers and are just some of the barriers people with complex disabilities face in the labour market.  

A lack of support while looking for roles 

25% of people with complex disabilities who were in work or looking for paid employment didn’t receive any support to look for and apply for jobs. Our research found that unhelpful attitudes and rigid processes exist even in the places that ought to help people overcome barriers to employment. 

Jade, age 35, is eager to find a job. She’s non-verbal and has sight loss, and, like many people with complex disabilities, her job centre experience was a negative one. 

A woman in a wheelchair wearing blue and sitting in front of a bookcase

“When I attended Jobcentre, I wasn’t given the opportunity or encouraged to look for work on their computers. If I had been, I’d have needed a joystick that I could grip and magnifying software to enlarge the fonts, which they don’t have. 

Before I used Sense’s employment service, I didn’t have a clue that I could work at all. I’d always been told that I won’t get a job because of my disabilities.” 

Jade

One of the key findings from our employment research was that not one job centre in the UK offers specialist assistive technology on its computers, making it more difficult for those who rely on this support to look and apply for work onsite.   

Over half of people with complex disabilities who didn’t have a paid job would like more support looking for paid employment.

Source: Potential and Possibility research 2024

Job centres often refer disabled jobseekers to Sense. Our employment services support people to develop skills, navigate recruitment and manage accessibility requirements at work. But even in areas where the charity can provide this specialist support, job centres should still be meeting the needs of people with complex disabilities.  

Over half (55%) of people with complex disabilities who didn’t have a paid job would like more support looking for paid employment. Fortunately, this is a problem that can be fixed.

Our experience and expertise mean Sense is well-placed to identify some things the Government needs to do differently to successfully close the disability employment gap. 

Sense would like to see the Government:  

  • Partner with disability charities, including organisations with specialist employment services to ensure people with complex disabilities receive appropriate support.    
  • Explore options for further improving the provision of specialist employment support – including funding for assistive technology – with charities and other local organisations.  
  • Fund more specialist employment programmes to work in partnership with Job Centre Plus. 

Read our research on the employment support available to people with complex disabilities

About this research 

Potential and Possibility is an annual piece of research on the experiences and aspirations of people with complex disabilities. The research involves polling and our own survey. This year we involved 1,279 people with complex disabilities in our research. This year (2024) is the third year we have carried out this research. 

These pages reflect the latest information from our 2024 research, building on our findings from 2023 and 2022. 

If you have any questions about the research, please contact [email protected]