Abilities, not just dis-abilities

Abilities, not just dis-abilities

What about the unemployment of those with a disability in Northern Ireland?

Northern Ireland has the lowest rate of employment for people with disabilities in the UK and the disability employment gap is the HIGHEST in the UK (44%) by a significant margin. Almost a quarter of a million (243,000) working-age adults in Northern Ireland are disabled – just over one-fifth of the working-age population!

This also means that disabled people in Northern Ireland are at increased risk of living in poverty. What can we do to help make a change in the lives of people with disabilities in Northern Ireland? What steps can we take as a business, as a community, as individuals?

These are the precise questions Bolster Community’s Allison Slater and Sarah Fox were asking at the “Trust Inclusion” event. This event, held at Ulster University’s new Belfast Campus, involved a myriad of people from varying backgrounds of expertise, including lecturers, students, HR professionals, business owners and the Department of Communities. All in the room were joined in one simple but passion-fuelled mission: to co-design and discuss strategies for more inclusion in the working world. It was a full day of statistics, discussion, real-life stories and learning.  Ulster University’s Dr. Paul Joseph-Richard and the speakers for the Department of Communities that took to the stage did an amazing job in organising and hosting this event. An event that Bolster’s Head of Operations and Development, Allison Slater, has described as an “encouraging day that has given us lots to think about it.  These statistics are not new to us as we see the impact of unemployment and  disability everyday; so many of the people we support through our Ability services would thrive in employment that is not available to them. This is a vital discussion to be having and we can all do more.”

Challenges faced by those with a disability seeking employment are several, but not insurmountable. One of the main issues highlighted on the day is that some employers feel apprehensive about hiring someone with a disability for fear that it’ll cost more money and time or that the reasonable measures may not be realistic for their particular company. It depends upon the type of work, the organisation itself and the question of hiring one candidate over another when one needs adjustments and the other does not. Why go to all that trouble? The truth of the matter is that Northern Ireland doesn’t have the answers yet and that’s why this discussion is so important to have.

Bolster Community are proud to be a part of this Ulster University and Department of Communities co-design, and eager to build upon and advocate for disability both within and outside of the working environment. Sarah Fox, Project Support Worker, added; “People are not their disability. Employers should focus more on what those candidates ARE capable of doing and if the environment doesn’t work, either change it or signpost them to something they can do. Don’t just let people who are struggling float and figure it out for themselves. People who have a disability still have ability.”

Northern Ireland has a long way to go but we are on the right path. With events and discussions like this happening, it’s time to focus more on what can be done and the how behind it. Exciting times lie ahead, and Bolster Community will be here every step of the way.