E&S19: Inclusion, safety and equal work environments – collaborating on positive opportunities for all

23 July 2019

What a great opportunity to hear from key note speakers Angela Rayner MP and Baroness Buscombe at Learning and Work Institute’s Employment and Skills Convention!

I attended the breakout session ‘Tackling the Disability Employment Gap’ which included a positive presentation with an open discussion about invisible illnesses and those with learning difficulties.

The Cyber Security forum UK has managed to embrace those living with Asperger’s and Autism. They work to appreciate their abilities and focus on their positive traits to implement a structure and schedule that works for them through their Neuro-diverse training project.

We also heard from The Education People based in Kent who are also learning to understand the individual needs of those living with disabilities.

We cannot understand everyone’s situation without communication. A service provider or employer won’t understand the reality of someone living with a disability or trauma and the daily impact it has on their lives if they have not experienced it first-hand.

Clarion Futures, the convention’s drinks reception sponsor, is doing a fantastic job in terms of supporting its local communities and engaging with its vulnerable tenants.

It may appear strange a key worker has to speak to a tenant over a fence, but for the reality of someone who has been isolated through fear, has potentially experienced abuse, neglect, ill health or lives with (complex) PTSD then there is a real fear of anyone visiting their home. Let alone someone they have never met before, announced or unannounced. The effects of trauma are complicated. Trust issues are another factor, the difficulty of leaving their home without the right support or understanding of what a ‘support worker’ or DWP officer needs from them can be a real challenge.

Invisible illnesses are difficult to understand for many. Healing is not linear and there may well be some days that are better than others. This is where the understanding of ‘full time work’ and ‘flexibility’ really can be considered. Society is not static: we are developing and moving forward. Technologies are changing and we are all adapting. We must learn to understand and ‘be bold to break old models and policies in place’.

Listening, respecting and being compassionate towards individual life stories has a positive impact on wellbeing. It allows potential employees to feel ‘valued’. This is an effective way of enabling someone who wants to move forward in their life.

Jane Mansour and Rich Wilson of Osca discussed their Good help project during the second breakout session ‘Is good work possible without good help?’ which is working to understand the support needs of those who live with addictions and hardship. We also heard from the Give-Get-Go project as part of the Transform Lives Company in Liverpool. This company considers those in need for ongoing support from the ground up.

Long term illness and isolation naturally leads to further fear of being able to move forward safely, however, knowing a support network is in place offering adaptable training, flexibility and ongoing wellbeing plans alongside receiving a good wage, employment benefits and a pension scheme is the ideal set up.

It’s about the quality of a service not quantity. Speaking with one person or one service provider is far more conducive for results than speaking to three or more providers and as many workers to try and get the right kind of training or support that’s needed.

Support is out there, guidelines are in place. Community meetings, local resident representatives, key community members will enable those who have been isolated for so long begin to feel like they are part of their local community.

But this transition takes time. It is a slow process so the training, support and employment must reflect this.

The importance of leading service providers, the DWP and the government having an open discussion about the realities of low income, in-work progression, ongoing support systems and vocational training is to ensure stable networks for positive growth throughout both rural and city communities.

We need to consider all factors of an individual’s life to enable them to make decisions about their training and work needs. Collaboration is an important way to work with vulnerable adults and those living with physical or invisible illness related disabilities. Setting out clear goals through individual plans and learning to understand the daily impact on their lives whilst offering a positive experience and enabling those low income families to have opportunities to progress through in-work training.

As Torsten Bell of the Resolution Foundation said ‘this is not a game, these are real lives in real situations and there is a responsibility as a country, as a community to enable everyone the same opportunities that meet individual needs’.

I am confident the services will continue their efforts to understand the needs of everyone.

We’re all passionate about making positive moves forward. So we must continue speaking to one another, sharing experiences and encourage a proactive support, training network for those with lived experience alongside those who are providing the services.


Oriana White, was a Festival of Learning highly commended individual 2018, is a L&W learner ambassador and currently works in mental health and wellbeing, arts and trauma education.

Employment and Skills Convention – 10 July 2019 #EmploymentSkills19

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