Youth Contract – The reply

Remember when I fired off a letter to my local MP about my concern of the Youth Contract?

I got this letter from my local MP. Chris Williamson (Labour), who have been busy following this up.


Attached to this letter was a corresponding letter from Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister.

So changes are coming. I do hope this is not under the guise of Access to Work being made available for those seeking work experience/placements.

However, it is encouraging to see that writing to your local MP does have some merits.

In employment, are deaf people at bottom of pecking order

This is my recent contribution I made for the Limping Chicken website.

Limping Chicken logo

Hello! I’m Tony Barlow, an employment consultant with 10 years experience of working in employment for deaf people.

My goal in writing for Limping Chicken is to cover issues relating to employment, jobs, careers, work experience and UNEMPLOYMENT.

Ugh – that word which has cast dark gloomy clouds across this proud but fragile country.

Even if you are currently working, there is a good chance you know someone who is recently unemployed, or has a job which is under threat. Or is sending endless job applications and not getting a bite.

It is hard to avoid that widespread feeling of job insecurity while the economy struggles.

Employers are pruning their staff and surviving staff are being forced to do more work for same money. The fortunate ones with job security are usually your funeral director or a bailiff…..or even that reviled figure of an investment banker.

It’s not easy to feel confident about our future when the news is reeling off reports of rising unemployment levels, benefits being cut back and 300+ applicants chasing after an unskilled job. Furthermore, with 2.7 million looking for work, the competition is intense for an average deaf and/or disabled jobseeker.

If you are currently unemployed, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re feeling quite desperate and are worried about finding meaningful employment these days.

How do I know? Because I am one of them. Hopefully not for long – I am working on setting up a new business relating to employment.

Looking for a job when you are deaf, is in my view, made harder when JobCentres are lacking in Deaf awareness and are poorly equipped to support deaf jobseekers.

They often do not provide equipment or telephone support when you have identified a job worth applying for. In my experience, DWP Call Centre staffs can also be unhelpful when you make a relayed call about a job advert or benefit enquiry.

Disability Employment Advisors are often over stretched and their knowledge of supporting deaf people can be limited.

It wasn’t long ago, when applying for a job was more simple and straightforward, involving sending a CV with a covering letter, or a paper application.

It’s harder for deaf people to navigate their way through a quagmire of psychometric assessments, telephone interviews, time-limited online questionnaires and applications, group interviews and presentations. These need bags of confidence and can be made tougher if skills if English language skills are not one of your strong points.

After 6 months on the dole, a deaf jobseeker can find themselves placed on a Work Programme or Work Choice.

There is no assurance that you will meet an advisor who will understand your barriers and communication needs (except for isolated cases in some areas of the UK, through sheer determination of its local deaf organisations). It can be a postcode lottery.

There appears to be no consistent national framework, which provides an appropriate and consistent support system for deaf people all over the UK.

In recent years, the government – both Labour and Tories – have come up with three main employment programmes: ‘Work Choice’, and ‘Flexible New Deal’ which was subsequently replaced by ‘Work Programme’.

These have created a network of private providers (for example, A4e, Serco, Shaw Trust, Ingeus, Remploy, Working Links, InTraining) looking to win contracts in different regions.

Department of Work and Pensions expect the private providers to ensure their services are accessible. So the contract winners often bring in specialised subcontractors to address their access needs – and that is where Deaf/BSL using employment advisors like me, sometimes working for larger organisations, come in. The buzz words are ‘partnership’ and ‘chain supply’.

The danger of devising these national employment programmes and setting up a network of private providers – without really consulting with the grassroots, deaf organisations and charities on the ground supporting people with needs – is that it becomes “one size fits all.”

There appears to be no genuine quality standard or accountability in place to ensure each provider can cater and meet the varying support requirements of a diverse range of deaf jobseekers. Therefore access becomes more patchy and often an afterthought whenever a deaf jobseeker come to them.

As always, it can fall to the charities and deaf organisations to try their best to plug these gaps for deaf jobseekers.

Not all of them do step forward or can afford to fund long term support until results come in. For instance, the Work Programme is only worthwhile when a jobseeker gets a job and stays in the job for up to 2 years.

With specialised support for deaf job seekers hard to find, most deaf jobseekers will find themselves using mainstream services, where there is little expertise in supporting deaf jobseekers.

While most providers are aware of their duty to provide access, interpreters or other communication tactics, it is not always effective. At the first appointment, not all of them know what to do when faced with a deaf jobseeker. Often, it becomes a learning experience for the (hearing) Employment Adviser.

Deaf awareness is still sorely lacking in large parts – the hearing advisers don’t often know why it is important to use highly qualified BSL interpreters, and how to utilise the Access to Work(ATW) system.

Further, they don’t always know what ATW can cover: job interviews, health & safety solutions (to overcome some employers’ justification in the unsuitability of having a deaf employee in their factory for example), and that some deaf jobseekers need extra support in English writing, especially in job applications, confidence building or to say the right things in job interviews.

Despite the communication support/interpreter being provided or the advisor receiving basic Deaf awareness, the lack of in-depth knowledge and Deaf/hearing cultural differences remains the biggest pitfall. This can create a negative impact on the deaf jobseeker’s journey into employment. In my future blogs, I intend to cover more, in depth, on this subject.

I feel that it is more beneficial for a specialist provider to be brought in (a service with a first-hand knowledge of deaf issues and/or BSL) as they offer empathy and have experience of overcoming the barriers facing the jobseekers.

With specialist support being available nationally, the deaf jobseeker would start to feel confident straight away, knowing they are going to be getting expert advice, be understood and be able to compete for jobs on equal footing, instead of losing hope and motivation before they even get started.

Deaf jobseekers usually are more willing to open up when they are dealing with a Deaf/BSL/CODA specialist provider.

I know, because I’ve seen this for myself.

Tony Barlow is an employment consultant of 10 years with extensive experience of working with private providers, having previously worked for RNID and Dering Employment Services. He is currently living in Derby with a Deaf wife and 2 little girls, and is planning to launch a new employment service soon. He tweets as @Saltbar, and is also a proud geek, online activist and an England rugby fan who, until recently, have stopped teasing the Welsh fans. :-(

PIP – Eligibility criteria

Pardon me for not blogging after such a long time. Also, pardon me for launching straight into a raging subject that have worked up Twitter into a moral outrage and people with disabilities up in arms. Pardon me for quickly putting together this post.

In the light of the current Welfare Reform, currently being brutally pushed through the House of Lords without so much scrutiny and analysis, one of the most contentious aspects of it is to replace Disability Living Allowance with PIP (Personal Independence Payment) for spurious reasons. (I hope I can have the opportunity to explain why later).

Last night, DWP have published the proposed thresholds points to guide the re-assessment part of the new PIP. This can be found here.

Below is taken from Benefits and Work website of how each claimant will be scored.

Continue reading

Dering Interview on File on Four (BBC Radio 4)

Transcript kindly provided by Claire of Team Hado.

File on Four

Part of a programme looking more widely and whether charities be trusted to run public services well and honestly?

Dering section – 11.40

While the impact of reorganisation is troubling some volunteers, what concerns many managers of charities is the future financing of public sector contracts. They worry that, while they might be about to get a bigger slice of the cake, the cake itself is shrinking rapidly under the Chancellor’s cuts, and there’s real anxiety amongst smaller groups that they may face severe financial pressure from the way public sector contracts are awarded. Continue reading

TAG calls for Government action after independent Ofcom report on deaf telecoms

TAG is calling for Government action to improve deaf telecoms services following a new report from Ofcom that highlights the benefits that modernised telephone relay services could have on the employment and everyday lives of deaf people. The independent report, Voice telephony services for deaf people, was commissioned by Ofcom as part of its work to tackle the most critical issues that disabled people face with communications services.

The report says that modernised relay services – in use in several other countries, but available to only a very few people in the UK – could enable deaf people to be significantly more productive at work, help reduce their feelings of isolation and loneliness at home and make everyday telephone interactions less stressful and much faster.

Ruth Myers, chairman of TAG said “We are very pleased that this independent report for Ofcom has highlighted the all-round benefits of modernised relay services to deaf people and that they may even be more cost-effective than the existing basic text relay service. We now want the government to act promptly to ensure that modernised services can be available to deaf people at fair prices.
“The report echoes what TAG has been saying for a very long time: that the existing basic text relay service is very frustrating for its deaf users principally because it is too slow and does not allow natural fluid conversations. As the report indicates, the newer captioned and video relay services enable much faster, less stressful and far more effective means for deaf people to contact hearing people by voice telephone.” The continuing importance of voice telephone calls for the general population despite the growth in other forms of text communication like SMS texting, email and instant messaging is also highlighted by the report. Although voice calls by the hearing population have decreased a little in recent years, they have now stabilised at an average 90 minutes per week. Deaf people are therefore largely missing out on a vital mode of communication, an issue that could be addressed through the widespread availability of modernised relay services.

TAG is gaining support for its campaign from MPs of all the main political parties, many of whom are raising the issue in Parliament.

The Ofcom report on deaf telecoms is available at TAG is a consortium made up of the British Deaf Association, Deafness Support Network, deafPLUS, Hearing Concern Link, National Association of Deafened People, National Deaf Children’s Society, Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID), and Sense.

Related links:

News’ source

House of Lords debate warns over Apprenticeship Bill

Disabled young people may be excluded from apprenticeships because of entry requirements specified in current legislation, peers warned yesterday.

In a House of Lords debate on the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill, peers questioned whether provisions on access to apprenticeships were compatible with disability discrimination legislation.

The legislation specifies that applicants must have “level 1” qualifications, including in English and Maths. These represent basic skills and are equivalent to GCSEs at grades D or below.
Labour peer Baroness Wilkins raised similar concerns about deaf young people, adding: “A blanket requirement for a GCSE in English may disadvantage a deaf candidate whose first language is British Sign Language.”

Both Rix and Wilkins questioned whether the measure was compatible with the duty on public bodies, under the Disability Discrimination Act 2005, to promote disability equality.

In response, junior children’s minister Baroness Morgan said the government was “very committed to ensuring apprenticeships are accessible to all young people and adults”, but promised to look again at the requirements, saying it was “an important area for us to debate further”.

Young people would be able to pursue an apprenticeship without meeting the qualificaiton criteria but would not have an entitlement to one, she said.

I am glad someone highlighted this because a fair few Deaf people do leave school with no English skill at that level. They need second chance when they do leave school and, by adding this GCSE English entry requirement, it will further hinder the development of young deaf people who couldn’t access decent education at school.

Personally, I went through Youth Training Scheme (YTS) and I felt it gave me a great springboard to enhance my work opportunities later on in my 20s. I think the Government is totally missing the point with what the apprenticeship should be all about. It should be about an opportunity to learn vocational skills that are not readily available in schools. It will create a paradox in the education system in ensuring our next generation to acquire skills.

I don’t understand this obsession for needing to have layer after layer of qualifications to do simple job. For example, there is an NVQ course in becoming a cleaner. The mind boggles and this is bureacracy gone mad.

For that reason, I am looking forward to attend Worklessness Innovation seminar next Thurday.