‘Personal assistants are a key support structure for those with a disability trying to get into work’

Michael McEwan explores the barriers to employment facing disabled people and what care workers and personal assistants can do to empower them

disability; personal assistants
Photo: EM Welch/Rex Features

By Michael McEwan

A key objective for personal assistants and support workers is being aware of the barriers those they support face in daily life. A crucial part of this is gaining employment.

I got my first paid job with the Scottish Consortium for Learning Disability, for which I travelled over Scotland to speak about the challenges and stigma I experienced in my journey into employment as someone with a learning disability, and how I overcame this.

Many support workers and parents I met stressed there was nothing to inspire their young people and they were keen to support the introduction of a working life for people with a disability.

Awareness campaigns

There are a lot of good disability awareness campaigns and events out there, locally and nationally, but they are often not highlighted enough. One such example is Young Scotland’s Got Talent (YSGT), an employment initiative for young people with a learning disability and individuals on the autistic spectrum.

Campaigns like YSGT promote the fact that just because someone has a disability, it does not mean they can’t work. In my own experience, getting a job and meeting new people through my work was a huge confidence boost.

Local authority charters

When the Young Scotland’s Got Talent campaign was officially launched in 2010, many of the 300 people who attended took the opportunity to sign one of the 32 charters—one for each local authority area—calling for supported employment services for all young people with learning difficulties and individuals on the autistic spectrum.

Now, YSGT roadshows bring together all the relevant agencies, give advice on employment and offer fun workshops. The aim of the roadshows is to showcase employment role models, who inspire others by telling the story of their personal journey into work, offer practical advice about who can help getting into work, and help people understand the key elements of support networks.

Personal assistants

The initiative addresses concerns raised by parents about the lack of information and advice for their children on how to get a job, also hosts a steering committee of young people with a learning disability. It promotes the need for more role models to go out to share their life experiences and get the point across that there are a lot of people with a disability who would love to get a job but are not give a chance.

Personal assistants and support workers form a key support structure for those with a disability trying to get into work, and in their workplace. If I could offer one piece advice to people working in these roles, it would be to come along to these events with those you support, encourage and guide them with the gained knowledge and confidence that there are employment agencies in place to help them achieve their employment goals.

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