Beating the barriers: James’ employment journey

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Being disabled can mean you face more barriers, obvious and hidden, that pose no problem for people without a disability. Statistics on employment, for instance, show that disabled people are consistently put at a disadvantage. With Livability’s support, James is working hard to overcome these barriers and achieve his hopes and dreams.

Voluntary work

If James sees an opportunity, he takes it. Since he’s lived at Livability Netteswell Rectory in Harlow, he feels many more opportunities have come his way – and there are plenty more he wants to grasp. ‘Compared to other places I’ve lived, I’ve had much more help here,’ he says. James’ week includes two days’ voluntary work at a local hospital, as a ward assistant. ‘I love it because I meet new people. I help with cleaning and tidying up, sort out the stores,’ he says. He’d like more from work: ‘I’d really love to find a way into paid work, but my disabilities make this difficult.’

Paid work

He’s right – having a disability profoundly affects the chance of getting paid work. Only six¹ per cent of people with a learning disability are employed – although 65% say they would like work, according to government¹. For people with autism, just 16% of autistic adults in the UK are in full-time paid employment and only 32% are in some kind of paid work².

James speaks matter-of-factly about some of the challenges he faces: he recognises that having epilepsy and an arm impairment makes finding paid work harder, and being autistic means that ‘making friends is not always easy’. The Netteswell community has been a positive for James: ‘I’ve made new friends and get on well with everyone here. I like helping people here if I can. And there are some staff I really click with too.’

Building skills

He’s adding to his skills and hobbies wherever he can. Since living at Netteswell, he’s taken up the guitar: ‘Music is a big plus for me. It helps me express myself.’ James also helps to fundraise locally, recently braving Harlow town centre in a purple onesie for a national epilepsy charity.

James is hoping to find a way around the employment issue. Cooking is one of his loves, and he offers to help cook a weekly meal for all his housemates, as well as cooking for himself every day. ‘I’ve always cooked – I like doing a bit of everything. Here I can go out shopping with a staff member and I do a budget with staff too.’ And the employment angle? James would like to turn his hobby into a business: ‘I’d like to sell my cooking, maybe homemade sauces – lemon and tomato are two I make that are really good.’

Netteswell manager Martin Oliver says people like James are the reason he loves his job. ‘Providing great care here means we see people do and achieve things they might not have thought possible. They might be small or big things but very significant for the individual. It all adds up to overcoming barriers in people’s lives.’

¹, quoted in The Guardian 2017

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