London Met and Islington Council launch disability and health conditions employment report

Report identifies employment barriers for people with disability and long-term health conditions, including key recommendations to address them.

Date: 16 November 2023

London Met and Islington council have conducted research to identify unemployment rates among residents with varied disabilities and long-term health conditions, such as deafness and visual impairment.   

The key identified barriers include unfair treatment, discrimination, lack of awareness, training, and support from employers, as well as stigma and ignorance about mental health conditions, learning disabilities, neuro-diverse people, deafness, and visual impairment. This research is part of the London Met Lab: Empowering London initiative, which seeks to engage the University with community partners.  

The study analysed economic inactivity and employment levels among people with disabilities, and whether those with specific disabilities and long-term health conditions tend to suffer more.  Additionally, focus groups with these individuals were used to investigate employment barriers.   

“The Islington disability project has exposed the extent to which people with disabilities suffer discrimination, both in accessing work and whilst in the workplace. These residents with varying health and learning challenges have voiced the need to increase disability awareness with employers and employment advisors alike, if their skills and potential are to be realised,” commented Dr Jane Lewis, lead researcher on this project and senior lecturer of sociology at London Met. “The project, commissioned in partnership with the London Borough of Islington, highlights the importance of working with local partners in the community to make changes. The report reflects the strategic focus of the University on issues of social equity and justice.” 

Barriers to employment 

People with disabilities and long-term health conditions have significantly higher unemployment rates than those without. The lack of opportunities in work environments for people who are deaf and manage learning disabilities is a significant barrier. Recruitment processes, particularly online applications, can be a major barrier for people with lower levels of digital literacy or those without access to a laptop and broadband.   

Those living with disabilities, sensory impairments, and long-term health conditions are pushed into poverty by a sustained pattern of low-skilled and low-paying employment, which often results in lack of confidence and low expectations.   

Beyond this, low levels of educational qualifications, negative experiences of mainstream education, and literacy in English as opposed to British Sign Language (BSL), have also been highlighted as barriers to accessing employment and recruitment processes.   

Santiago Bell-Bradford, Executive Member of Inclusive Economy and Jobs at Islington Council added: “As a Council, we want Islington to be a place where people can live sustainable, happy and healthy lives. Improving our disabled residents’ chances of finding good work is part of that ambition. We are delighted to have worked with colleagues at London Metropolitan University on the research project. We know that the recommendations will help us reach more people and contribute to our ambition of creating a more equal future in our borough.”   

Additional findings 

The research underlines the need for disability awareness in workplaces, particularly for people with mental health conditions. Research participants who are deaf have experienced discrimination and raised issues about the need for deaf awareness, such as fire alarms and challenging stereotyping.   

Findings reveal the lack of clarity over when and where to disclose information about health conditions is a major concern. General lack of awareness and lack of support, including BSL support, throughout services such as the DWP Job Centres, are also discussed.   

In addition, the study addresses the duration and cost of diagnosis for neuro-diverse conditions, as well as the need for regular affordable access to gyms and swimming facilities for rehabilitation.   

To tackle the challenges raised, a thorough set of recommendations on how the Council can adopt integrated, long-term, and well-funded approaches to address these employment barriers is included in the report. This involves integrating wider employment, income support, health, and other needs of individuals with disabilities by expanding outreach teams, practice in employment support, and wider service delivery. It is also essential to tackle discrimination and concentrate on abilities instead, dispelling the notion that individuals with disabilities can only obtain low-skilled, entry-level positions.   


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