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The importance of inclusive employment

Pippa_AlumniPippa_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 5,851 Disability Gamechanger

My name is Pippa, I’m from Yorkshire, and I have a chronic illness. I'm a blogger at Life Of Pippa, and last year I joined Scope’s community team. I now contribute towards the day-to-day running of the online community, alongside working with the Stories and Digital Marketing teams.

There’s never been a tougher time to find employment as a graduate. I finished my degree back in 2016, and saw my non-disabled friends begin to attend interview after interview, with the luckiest ones finally managing to secure a job. Meanwhile, there’s me: just as academically capable as my peers, but unable to work full-time or leave the house more than a couple of times a week, due to my long-term health condition. If my non-disabled peers were having a tough time finding work, what chance did somebody like me have?

I’ve lived with my condition since I was a teenager, and by the time I’d graduated, I knew exactly what kind of employment I needed: opportunities suitable for my skills and interests, but with part-time hours and where I could mostly work from home. I’ve had a whole range of employment experiences in the past, but I feel so fortunate to now be able to say I’ve now found things that work for me.

pippa stood wearing graduation cap and down

It was sheer luck that, thanks to being a long-time Scope supporter, I found out about their opportunity for a new Online Community Intern: a reduced-hours, flexible role where I could work from home. I was so chuffed to be offered the position, and after a few months working as an intern, I secured a permanent role within the community team. I’ve now been part of Team Scope for a year, and there are still frequent moments where I reflect on how fortunate I feel to work for an organisation that wholly supports inclusive employment.

Although I work from home, I’ve always very much felt like I’m part of the team: thanks to technology and new software, I’m in constant contact with my colleagues and always feel up to date about what’s happening within the organisation. I can reach out to anyone at any time, just as if I was in the office, and my colleagues and I are constantly finding new ways we can successfully work together. Even though I’m 170 miles away from Head Office, I’ve never once felt isolated.   

Another one of my concerns about entering the world of employment was how I would manage to balance my duties with my fluctuating health condition. As anybody with a chronic illness will know all too well, getting through the day requires careful activity management, and again, this is something that I feel has been recognised and appreciated by my employers. I work reduced hours with the flexibility to move these around in case of medical appointments or tough symptom days, and I have regular catch-ups with my line manager to discuss how things are going and whether there’s any other support I might benefit from. Not only does this flexibility mean that I can work in a safe way, it also means I work better and smarter too.

Above all, I feel so privileged to be working for an organisation that not only recognises and accommodates my disability, but embraces it: we deal with any issues my chronic illness presents, and we work out ways I can succeed regardless. Inclusive workplace practice means that not only am I in employment and supporting myself, but that I can pursue a career of my own as well. I’m not just part of a tick-box staff diversity exercise, I’m not one of those rogue disabled people Philip Hammond believed were slowing down the workforce… I’m a valued employee in my own right. And as somebody who once spent frequent nights sat awake worrying about that very issue during my student years, I know it’s something I’ll never take for granted.

pippa outdoors sat in wheelchair smiling at camera

The fact that I feel so fortunate in having a fulfilling and safe job, where I’m not thought less of because of my condition, just goes to show how low the bar is currently set for disabled people wanting to enter the world of work. There are still thousands of people in the country who are continually being excluded from employment due to their disability or health condition and the most frequent question I get asked by people in my blogging community is ‘how on EARTH did you manage to find that job?!’.

As I discussed in another recent post, if the UK wants to bring more disabled people into the workforce, the answer isn’t reducing the benefit payments of severely unwell people so that they can no longer afford a quality of life. Instead, we need to listen to the experiences of those who ARE capable of work, and consider how employing them can best be implemented safely and correctly. I hope with everything in me that now is the time that more organisations realise just how valuable inclusive employment can be.

How do you think we can make employment practices in the UK more inclusive? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!


  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Scope Posts: 10,653 Disability Gamechanger
    I love this post @Pippa_Scope! I can definitely relate to a lot of it and hope things do change :)

  • Pippa_AlumniPippa_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 5,851 Disability Gamechanger
  • mossycowmossycow Member Posts: 495 Pioneering
    Having had the benefit of your support as a volunteer with Scope and reading about your work I agree... you are not slowing down the work force!! In fact Scope is better off with you and I wish my employers could see the bigger picture and realise the benefits of employing more different people.

    It is supremely hard to get employment as a disabled person...I mean its hard to do anything! I tired to get support from ESA in terms of employment and all I got was 18 months of waiting....

    Me personally, I was a secondary school teacher. I had some disability but enough to work 3 days a week running a busy music department until I became more disabled in 2013 and now I'm not able to do that work.

    It left such a gap  :(     But! I am building up my life again...and find out regularly why I'm deemed not 'fit to work' as I get knackered and sore too much. But little bits in little chunks is doable. Currently its really voluntary work that enables me to do this. If only there were more flexible working opportunities for those of us with small chunks of time and energy.....

    "I'm trying to live like a random poem I read that ended 'to bloom where we are planted"

  • Pippa_AlumniPippa_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 5,851 Disability Gamechanger
    Thanks for the kind words @mossycow, and completely agree. There's such a huge pool of talent that many employers are missing out on by not utilising flexible working! 
  • subo23subo23 Member Posts: 5 Listener
    I work for a large organisation and my disability became more difficult about four years ago when I had to have an operation, trying to get my work to understand reasonable adjustments has been like banging my head against a brick wall In fact I’ve achieved nothing. My rota has stayed the same . I am expected to do four 12 hour shifts in a row and I am finding it physically and mentally impossible, I went sick at the weekend, and I am dreading going back on Thursday because my body is hurting. What do I do , they just don’t seem to want to accommodate me and I feel they just want me to retire through Ill health? 
  • Pippa_AlumniPippa_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 5,851 Disability Gamechanger
    I'm so sorry to hear about your experiences @subo23, that must be really difficult for you to deal with both mentally and physically.

    Scope have some good information about reasonable adjustments on their website, including this page on what to do if your employer rejects adjustments at work, and how to challenge this. Hope this helps!
  • Tara2015Tara2015 Member Posts: 23 Connected
    Subo23 I'm sorry your work is being like that I can totally understand last year I lost my mum who worked with me and she helped look after my son so I had to change days to arrange alternative childcare they hired in an agency to replace my mum, I'm a cleaner BTW, so my ra has got extremely bad and I was so nervous to ask but I did and they agreed to reduce me to part time due to my health thaught that was great they were willing to help except I use to work 3 days and now I work 5 days but less hours along side the agency cleaners there's two of them, the problem is theyv gave me more work than I had before for less hours the other ones aren't doing what there suppose to do and they have some reason why they couldn't work Fridays now it's Mondays that's why I have to do 5 instead of 4 days, I kindly asked if they could write a rota as there was some confusion who was to do what which they did but there still not doing it which means I'm double the work on a Monday,I feel like I'm just not coping as I say over the last 3 months there's not a minute I'm not in agony but I feel if I say anything il be made out to be a pain as they think theyv done me a huge favour they also just say ooh your foot sore today because I limp or do you wear the wrist braces every day they don't realise its everywhere its only what they can physically see sorry for the rant just know how you feel, is there any charity agency that  can contact your work to make adjustments iv read there are some if  you work at a desk or use a computer they can supply easier equipment  higher desk better chairs etc obviously other than a lightweight hoover there's not much they can do to help me, hope you get some head way as the stress just makes it worse xx
  • GiantGiant Member Posts: 3 Listener
    I worked full time for 20 years in several different jobs.  In each I would struggle because of my visual impairment and using special software to meet the targets set by my employers.  In my last job having been given a new manager, things went from ok to hell.  They accused me of just about everything under the sun.  I endured 18 months of discrimination and bullying from my manager, which made me Ill and I went off sick never to return.  I raised a grievance and sought legal advice but because the firm had mad some minor adjustments they said I had no case.
    That was 10 years ago . I now have anxiety and depression which stemmed from how I was treated.  I don't think I will work again.
  • Hills41Hills41 Member Posts: 14 Courageous
    My husband John who has multiple sclerosis has just been made redundant after 36 years along with another colleague who has a stomer. Thin line about disablism. Not sure what's ahead now. 
  • subo23subo23 Member Posts: 5 Listener
    I am about to attend the unison Disability conference in Brighton, I promise I will raise your issues , it was done to my own personal experience that made me sit up and decide I could either sink or take them on and challenge my employers attitude, they are huge,  well known health organisation who should no better , so lack of money is a poor excuse for treating disabled people. Don’t give up people... keep challenging your Employers for a better working day . Why should we have to put up with it . 
  • redchicken43redchicken43 Member Posts: 48 Pioneering
    It's really tough hearing about others people's experience and the challenges that they have faced in the workplace but mine have been very different due to the type of employers that I have worked for, who for the most part have been very supportive. Yes, I have missed out on job opportunities and promotions and life can be tough, but we all have to move on sometimes and put the bad things behind us. I am 49 years old and born with mild CP which affects both my walking and balance, but I have been in employment all of my working life. Within certain industries, the workplace is changing and more and more employers are offering opportunities to work from home so the physical requirements that challenged disable people are slowly but surely disappearing. I agree that it's not for everybody, but there is hope out there, especially for the youngsters amongst us who will find it easier to adapt. Pippa's story is both incredible and inspiring, she should be very proud of herself.
  • Chris1234xChris1234x Member Posts: 3 Connected
    This is first time I have posted here,reading this discussion with interest,
    I have been out of paid employment now for 11 years,I worked In the public sector for twenty years mostly in a specialised role, retired on health grounds due to upper limb disability,since then I can only get voluntary work,i have tried numerous courses,been to he'll and back with work capability assessments and I am currently happy running a shop for a charity as a volunteer,I am fortunate that my husband works fulltime,what I don't understand is why can I help to run a shop as a volunteer and I am treated as an equal but when I went on a course with the job centre at a major high street retailer I only lasted two days because they treated me as if I was a liability and quoted health and safety regulations as reasons why I would be unsafe on the shop floor,they really knocked my confidence,plus now at 51 years old my age is against me too.
  • SmileygotwellSmileygotwell Member Posts: 30 Courageous
    Like many like many of the contributors to this post after my disabilities worstened I too had to retire but, thanks to the interaction of a member to the Welsh charity 'Hafal'  (meaning equal) I was able to offer myself voluntarily and have 'worked' this way since '04 where, to my great fortune, I have enjoyed empathetic employers throughout. Since the total failure of my last kidney (which was someone else's and lasted perfectly 21plus years, indeed, it's still 'trying' even now!) I have been able to do a dialysis change where I work which opens up the day for me to be useful for longer.
    I suspect the perceived problem for our potential employers is, at the end of the day, money, especially in a latrger organisation, where the inflexibility of modern work practices, timetabling, coordinating multi-actions within a factory or similar where budgeting comes, to the shareholders and bosses, above everything, and COMMUNICATION, especially LISTENING, comes last.
    Of only there could be better methods of compromise perhaps better systems and practices would grow but at the mo', I even wonder how many even big businesses even consider the bigger picture. 
    I feel for those of you who receive the rough end of the stick and I realise I have been very fortunate in my survival.
    Co-operation between businesses brought them more political power and enabled greater wealth but the power wielded by CORPERATIONS these days has become greedy and unscrupulous and f we aren't careful, will be the end of freedom for all but the super rich few. So, where does that leave the likes of us? 
    For me, I suspect I shall try to cling onto my lifelong optimistic frame of mind and the dreams it brings and, who knows, one of these days, I might make a dream  come true and share it , but til then, I'll just make do with the thoughts.

  • piajkjpiajkj Member Posts: 4 Listener
    Hi Pippa, 
    I am a student in London. I am currently completing an extended uni project on disability and inequality in urban landscapes, and I would really like my work to be well informed and, as someone who does not identify as disabled (despite significant hearing loss through childhood), use my project to create space for disabled people to contribute their experiences. I would also like to discuss the place of non-disabled people in disability studies.
    I would really appreciate it if you could get in touch within the next week or so if possible to discuss your experiences, as from your blog and comments I think you would add some really important contributions! 
    Thank you! 
  • WaylayWaylay Member Posts: 949 Pioneering
    I was SO lucky to find a part-time, flexible hours, mostly from home job a few years ago. It wasn't in my field, but I made do. They were great with my physical disability, but not my mental health. 2 people left my team (of 5) and they asked me to work extra hours, which was too much stress. They asked and asked until I gave in, and I ended up taking more and more stress leave, and eventually landed in the hospital on IV morphine for 5 days. Had to quit.
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