There are a variety of employment support providers across Scotland and availability will vary from place to place. Providers include Shaw Trust, SAMH, Remploy, Enable, Momentum, local councils, and voluntary sector organisations. If you sign up to one of these services you might work on CVs and application forms, job search, do interview preparation and attend group training sessions. You might also talk about confidence building and barriers to work. It can be helpful to have regular input from an Employment Advisor for guidance and motivation.
If you have mental health problems with the NHS may term as “severe and enduring” such as chronic depression, bipolar, schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, then you may be able to access employment support services through your local Adult Mental Health Team. Provision may vary, but the Individual Placement and Support model is growing in popularity. This involves intensive support in applying for work and approaching employers on your behalf. Services that provide this include The Works in Edinburgh, SAMH in various areas, The NetWork Service in Renfrewshire. If you are unsure, ask your mental health worker.
At present, Inclusion Scotland is only funded to provide application support to people applying to our internship programme, and interns who are applying for work to move into once their placement has ended. We sometimes run group sessions or web chats on application advice. If you get in touch with us we will do our best to advise or signpost. You can also become a member of Inclusion Scotland and get updates on our employability work, events and consultations.
There are a variety of adjustments that employers can make. It all depends on the barriers that you face. For example, if you have memory issues you might want to take notes into the interview to help you perform. There may be personality tests or questionnaires that disabled people find difficult due to their impairment, and there should be alternatives to this stage. Some employers may allow disabled candidates to bypass such tests altogether. Alternative formats for applying such as plain text application forms, BSL interpretation or video applications should be accepted and considered equally with other candidates. Some pre interview tasks can disadvantage disabled people, for example, people with dyslexia should be given extra time for written tests. They should also be allowed to bring their own laptop with assistive software if they wish to. It is important to remember that if someone would do a job with adjustments in place then tests that simulate work should be done with adjustments. Otherwise they are not a reflection of how someone works. Employers should proactively tell applicants if there will be such a test, and should also be proactive in asking if applicants need reasonable adjustments. This may not always be the case and you may have to ask the employer, but we would always recommend doing this if needed. The guidebook “Accessing Employment” covers adjustments in more detail.
You are under no obligation to disclose anything at interview stage. Its a common misconception that if an employer finds out later on that you didn’t disclose that you will be disciplined. This is not true. Employers have no right to access anything about your impairment or sickness absence record before making you a job offer. Employers have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to support disabled employees, and only where there is no way that an individual couldn’t do core tasks in their job description would this be disputed. This is known as “genuine occupational requirement”, e.g. a flight attendant needs to have good mobility and vision to perform their duties. Don’t feel pressured to disclose anything you are uncomfortable with. It might be useful to have a frank discussion about how certain tasks would be carried out, and this may actually break down stereotypes and concerns held by the interviewer. If you feel you have been discriminated against in any way you can contact the Equality Advisory Support Service for advice.
The Scottish Union of Supported Employment (SUSE) has a nationwide peer support network for disabled people applying for work. There may also be job clubs in your area. Social media is a good way of sharing advice and stories with other people also if you have internet access. If you have a local Disabled People’s Organisation or Inclusive Living Centre they may have peer networks or employability support services.