Making sure every person with complex disabilities gets the right support to find work

Two women are sitting at desks, working on computers.

Looking for a job is never easy. That’s one of the reasons jobcentres exist – to make sure that everyone gets the help they need to find work that’s right for them. But Sense’s new research shows that half of jobseekers with complex disabilities don’t feel that they have the support and equipment they need to look for work.

This needs to change.

As a charity providing specialist employment support to people with complex disabilities, we think we’re well placed to help the Government fix this problem. That’s why we’ve spent the past year looking into the support received by jobseekers with complex disabilities.

Jobseekers don’t feel supported

“Frustration has been a key word in my vocabulary for a good few years.”

Deafblind jobseeker

This is a feeling shared by so many of the people we spoke to. And too often, jobcentres are part of the problem.

Our polling found that:

  • Over half of jobseekers with complex disabilities (54%) did not feel supported by Work Coaches.
  • 46% did not feel supported by their Disability Employment Advisors.
  • 1 in 2 jobseekers with complex disabilities did not feel that they had the support and equipment they need to look for work.

What the Government needs to do

To understand why so many jobseekers with complex disabilities feel let down, we asked the Government about the support they provide to disabled jobseekers.  

We were surprised by the ways in which support was lacking.

We were shocked to find that no computers in jobcentres have the specialist assistive technology some disabled people would need to use them.  We were also struck by the fact that Work Coaches didn’t undergo disability equality training focused on jobseekers.

But these problems can be fixed.

So, what does the Government need to do?

Introduce a Jobcentre Assistive Technology Fund

The lack of specialist assistive technology means that, unlike non-disabled people, some disabled people don’t have the option of using computers onsite to look for work and fill in job applications.

In the Spring Budget, the Government committed to making it easier for disabled people to enter work. Making sure that everyone can access the right support at a jobcentre is one way they can do this.

We estimate that it would cost £5 million to equip every jobcentre in Britain with essential items of assistive technology.

Give Work Coaches and Disability Employment Advisors the skills they need

A jobseeker’s main contact at their jobcentre is their Work Coach, who support them as they look for work, helping them to apply for jobs.

In our focus groups and interviews, some people told us that they found their Work Coach supportive. But others felt that their Work Coaches were unsympathetic and didn’t even listen to them.

These are not isolated incidents – our polling found that over half of jobseekers with complex disabilities (54%) didn’t feel supported by Work Coaches.

Better training could help address this. Our research has found that Work Coaches do not even receive disability equality training that is specifically focused on jobseekers – let alone training on the barriers to employment people with complex disabilities face.

Work Coaches can refer disabled jobseekers to Disability Employment Advisors, who do receive some training in the barriers to employment faced by disabled people. But our research has found clear gaps in this training, which does not cover key topics like assistive technology.

That’s why we’re calling for the Department for Work and Pensions to make sure that all Work Coaches and Disability Employment Advisors are trained in the specific barriers to employment faced by disabled people, including those with complex disabilities. This training should be designed and led by disabled people.

Tackling the disability employment gap

At the time of the Spring Budget, the Government announced plans to offer more intensive support to disabled jobseekers. At Sense, we want these measures to be successful.  

For these proposals to be effective, jobcentres and their staff need to be able to provide people with complex disabilities with specialist support.

That’s not happening right now.  But if the Government implement our recommendations, then we will be one step closer towards making sure that every jobseeker with complex disabilities get the support they need to enter and stay in work.

To find out more about our research, including further findings and recommendations you can read our full report here.