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New report – Young deafblind people are one of the most marginalised groups in society, with only 4% in employment

October 4, 2016

A press release:

New report reveals the extent to which deafblind people, willing and able to work, are being prevented by limited opportunities and numerous barriers

Current programmes are not working, as Sense calls on Government to adopt a new approach to employment

·         Young deafblind people are ten times less likely to find employment that their non-disabled peers, with only 4% able to secure employment


·         Only 20% of deafblind people are currently in work, with negative employer attitudes, inaccessible recruitment and ineffective support programmes, highlighted as significant barriers to employment


·         Half of all disabled people in the UK are currently out of work, despite Government pledge to halve disability unemployment gap


(London, UK – 4th October) – A report published today by national disability charity, Sense, highlights the stark inequalities and barriers faced by deafblind jobseekers across the UK. While many of the 100,000 working age deafblind are keen and able to work, and only 20% currently doing so, the evidence shows the extent to which they’re currently being failed.


Sense’s ‘Realising Aspirations For All’ report, reveals that only 4% of 18 to 24 year-olds who are deafblind are in employment, making them one of the most marginalised groups in society. The 4% figure is ten times lower than the employment rate for non-disabled young people. The employment rate for deafblind people over the age of 24 is 20%.


Within the broader population of disabled people, currently 1 in 2 (46%) are out of work, a rate of employment 30% lower than that of non-disabled people.


The current employment programmes are not working, and the charity report makes a series of recommendations for employers, employment support providers and Government to adopt in their new approach; to enable them to deliver on their pledge to halve the disability employment gap by 2020.


Sense Deputy Chief Executive, Richard Kramer, said:


“Our report is further evidence that the current employment programmes aren’t working. The Government made an admirable manifesto pledge to halve the disability employment gap by 2020, but the reality is that there are still a huge number of barriers that prevent many people with disabilities from securing employment. These include negative employer attitudes, inaccessible recruitment processes and a lack of communication support.


Every day we hear from frustrated disabled people who want to work, and are able to work, but are prevented from doing so because of the many barriers that exist. This is a great opportunity, with the formation of the new Government, and anticipated Green Paper on employment, to adopt a new approach on how we help disabled people get into work and realise their aspirations.”



Barriers to finding, securing and sustaining employment, highlighted in the report include:


·         Negative stereotyping from prospective employers

·         Inaccessible recruitment processes

·         Lack of work experience opportunities for disabled school leavers

·         Lack of workplace adjustments

·         Limited career progression

·         Workplace social exclusion

Recommendations at different levels, highlighted in the report include:



·         Make more resources available for specialist support models targeted at people who have more complex support needs and are not likely to benefit from the Work and Health Programme.

·         The joint Department for Work and Pensions and Department for Health Work and Health Unit should use its Innovation Fund to trial innovative specialist support models

·         The link between welfare benefits and access to employment should be broken by making support voluntary and available to all disabled people, regardless of the benefits they claim

·         Ensure disabled people have access to information about employment support. There should be greater transparency in relation to who the support providers are, what support they can offer, and the minimum quality standards disabled people can expect from them.

·         Ensure Access to Work assessments of deafblind people are carried out by specialists who are trained in deafblindness.


·         Ensure that people whose sight and/or hearing deteriorates have timely access to reablement services and assistive technologies that enable them to maintain the highest degree of independence.

Employment Support Providers:

·         Ensure that advisers are aware of the specific needs of deafblind people and how they differ from the needs of people with a single sensory impairment.

·         Ensure that all communication is accessible and provide information in the formats that people need.


·         Promote an inclusive culture within the organisation by raising awareness about disability and promoting the specific steps staff can take to make their disabled colleagues feel included.

·         Ensure recruitment processes are accessible in order to encourage applications from disabled people.

·         View spending money on adjustments for disabled people as an investment in the workforce.


The report was launched at a special reception at the Conservative Party Conference before a select group of MPs.


To view the full report visit:



Case study:


Gary Moritz from London: “I felt like a number, not a human being they were trying to help”

Gary 1

Gary has Usher syndrome, a genetic condition that affects vision, hearing and, in some cases, balance. After losing his job, Gary claimed Employment Support Allowance and was subsequently referred to the Work Programme, which failed to address his support needs.

“No one asked me what I wanted to do and what I could do. They quickly dismissed my aspirations to find an administrator job and told me to concentrate on customer service roles, such as a call handler at a call centre. It did not register with them that I had a hearing impairment. 

“I was later sent on training sessions, where I could not see and hear what was being said. I had to come in and apply for jobs, and they assigned a person to help me do this as I could not see the screen and they didn’t want to adapt it for me. The lady just quickly read the jobs to me and sometimes applied without even letting me know. I later found out that she had a target to meet before lunchtime. The whole experience was awful; I felt like a number, not a person.”

Gary would have benefited from a personalised approach aimed at building his confidence and encouraging independence. The support provided did the opposite. They could have installed screen reading software on the computer and checked whether or not Gary needed to develop his computer skills to apply for jobs effectively. This approach would also have encouraged his independence. Instead, staff read the jobs to Gary and applied on his behalf.

Gary’s basic access needs were not met and it made it harder for him to benefit from the support he received. It might have been more effective to assess the demand in the labour market and reach out to employers who are actively recruiting staff to encourage them to consider employing Gary, rather than helping him to apply for the jobs he did not want and was not able to do.   Gary finished the programme without getting a job, and continues to look for work himself.


Bethany from Birmingham: “It takes time to build confidence”

Bethany 2

Bethany is 23. She was born deaf and began to lose her vision as a teenager. At college, teachers advised her to train to be a hairdresser – despite the fact that her sight was deteriorating.

“I did not like college. We did the same things every day and I wanted to do more. I had to come to terms with losing my sight and learn how to live with this. I felt isolated and very insecure. When I left education I had no luck finding a job and ended up staying at home with my family. 

“I then found out about Sense. I started to get involved in different activities.  The local authority funded communicator guide support for me. I started going out, meeting people and this built my confidence. I started to volunteer and am now looking at setting up my business. I feel positive about my future. I have started to learn how to use a long cane and can go to some places independently.”

Building confidence and resilience is especially important for young deafblind people, and there are many ways to do this. Sense developed a model of short breaks, which is geared towards supporting young people to develop independent living, choice making and self-help skills, and encourage the use of assistive technology. The short break provides a natural environment to establish a baseline of skills and desired goals and outcomes. It also helps young people to expand their social networks and support each other.


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