Support for disabled people finding work

This page tells you about the support available to help you find work. It also includes important things to know about such as your rights as a disabled person at work.

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Looking for work?

Get help and advice with applications, interviews and everything else from Sense’s employment support service.

Remember, looking for work can be exciting and daunting at the same time. This is true for everyone.

At Sense, we support people with complex disabilities to find worthwhile employment. We understand that if you’re disabled, there may be more challenges and things for you to think about.

But there are schemes to help and laws to protect you – you should never be overlooked for a job because of your disabilities.

And some employers actively welcome disabled employees – look out for the ‘positive about disabled people’ symbol with two ticks on job adverts.

Support for getting into work

There are different types of support available to help you find a job that’s right for you.

See a disability employment adviser

A good first step is to make an appointment with a disability employment adviser (DEA), part of the work coach team at your local Jobcentre.

You’ll then agree on a plan of action. A DEA or work coach can:

  • Carry out an employment assessment to find out what kind of work would suit you best.
  • Agree on a plan of action.
  • Tell you about your rights at work.
  • Help you write a CV.
  • Help you prepare for interviews.
  • Tell you about local employers who are especially welcoming of disabled employees.

Supported internships

Supported internships are for young people aged 16-24 with disabilities or complex learning difficulties and an ­EHC plan {EHC plans}.

It’s a personalised, work-based study programme and your school or college can enrol you and support you in it.

The internship lasts from six months to one year.

Supported interns are in full-time education, and an unpaid work placement is a key part of the course. You’ll spend most of your time in the workplace, but you’ll also study alongside it.

In the workplace, you’ll have a job coach to support you, although they may take a step back once you’re familiar with the role.

At the end, your job coach will support you to find paid work, if you haven’t already.

A supported internship can be a great opportunity to:

  • Get a taste of working life.
  • Build the skills valued by employers.
  • Show your value in the workplace.
  • Become more confident about your own abilities.

To find out more, speak to your school or college.

Work Choice

Work Choice is a government programme for disabled people who may face challenges in getting or keeping a job due to their disability.

Work Choice helps by identifying your needs and giving you the support you need.

It can be a very helpful step towards full, unsupported employment.

You may qualify if:

  • You’re disabled, and your disability affects your ability to find and keep work.

You may also have:

  • Complex work-related support needs because of your disability.
  • Support needs at work that can’t be addressed quickly through standard workplace adjustments.
  • A need for support in the workplace as well as help with finding work, which can’t be supplied through other schemes.

Work Choice can support you to:

  • Write a CV.
  • Look for jobs.
  • Develop interview skills.
  • Get equal treatment.
  • Find out about in-work benefits.
  • Talk to employers.

Once you’re in work, a job coach can help you with:

  • Travelling to and from your job.
  • Making reasonable adjustments in the workplace.
  • Settling into your new role.
  • Accessing benefits and tax credits.
  • Learning new skills.

The DEA at your local Jobcentre can tell you more about Work Choice and getting referred onto the programme.

Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are for people aged 16 and over.

They focus on practical training in the workplace, usually with just one day a week at college, and last from one to four years.

At the end, you’ll get a formal qualification, which may help you get a job or get into higher education.

These days, you can get apprenticeships in a wide range of work areas. And you earn a wage while you’re doing it. The amount you may get depends on your age. It’s worth checking whether a wage would affect any of your benefits – but it won’t affect benefits that aren’t linked to how much you earn.

Find out more about apprenticeships.

Traineeships

Traineeships are for young people aged 16 to 23 but this is often extended to 25 for disabled young people.

A traineeship may be a good option if you don’t have the qualifications or experience needed for an apprenticeship or job.

Usually, you’ll have training for the workplace along with maths and English tuition and work experience. A traineeship lasts between six weeks and six months. You probably won’t be paid but a lot of employers will cover travel and lunch expenses.  

Find out more about traineeships.

Work experience

Formal schemes aren’t the only way of getting experience in the workplace.

Your school, college or university may be able to help arrange work experience at a local company.

Work experience placements can be very short – as little as a few days or a week. They can be a good way to get a taste of working life without having to commit for very long.

Access to Work

The Access to Work scheme helps you get into or stay in work.

It’s available to people with a disability, health or mental health condition.

Through Access to Work, you can apply for:

  • Help to pay for practical support with your work, such as fares if you can’t use public transport, or special computer equipment.
  • Advice about managing your mental health at work.
  • Money to pay for communication support at job interviews or to do your work.

There’s no set amount for an Access to Work grant and it is not linked to how much you earn – it depends on your needs.

Find out more about Access to Work.

Your rights in the workplace

Legally, you’re protected in the workplace in two main ways.

  1. It’s against the law for employers to discriminate against disabled people in all areas, including in:
    • Application forms.
    • Interview arrangements.
    • Terms of employment, including pay and promotion opportunities.
    • Dismissal or redundancy.
  2. Employers must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to help you do your job. This may include buying specialist computer equipment or producing written information in a suitable format.

It’s up to you whether you tell an employer about your disability when you apply.

If you don’t tell them, you may feel less worried about discrimination. On the other hand, you may prefer to be open about your disability. And telling an employer about your disability means they’re obliged to make the reasonable adjustments that allow you to do your job.

If you decide to tell them, you then need to decide when you’ll do it.

You could disclose it in your CV or covering letter, for example. Or you might decide to wait until the interview, unless you need support in the interview that means you need to tell them in advance.

There are pros and cons with each situation.

Whenever you tell an employer about your disability, remember it’s only one part of you. The focus of a CV and interview should always be on your skills and experience. And you can highlight the financial help available through Access to Work.

Talk it over with your family, work coach or staff at your school or college, so you can speak about your disability with employers in a positive, confident way.

This content was last reviewed in April 2022. We’ll review it again next year.