What do the government’s disability employment plans mean for people with complex communication needs?

A woman signs to her employee


Yesterday, the Government published their response to ‘Improving Lives’; a consultation they launched in October 2016.  The consultation was about access to employment for disabled people – asking how the current system works, what needs changing and what ideas there might be for improving things in the future. This came alongside a pledge by the government in 2010 to halve the disability employment gap, given that in the UK less than half (48%) of disabled people are in employment compared to 80% of the non-disabled population.

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How my job is to enable my deafblind colleague to do his

A woman and man, wearing cochlear implants, walking together in a public space

Enabling someone to undertake their job effectively is both rewarding and of great responsibility. As a Communication and Support Assistant, I provide part-time support to Steven Morris, Sense’s Technology Officer, who is blind with hearing loss. I help Steven to communicate fully with colleagues and the people he supports. I balance my role with running my small business alongside being a wife and mother to two young children.

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How Sense helps children in their journey to adulthood

Several young people are posing for a picture after taking part in Bowling

At Sense, we love to encourage young people to socialise, make positive and informed life choices, and support them on their transition from childhood to adult life. We support families at transition meetings, annual reviews, care-plan reviews, and at any other meeting where a family requires support.

Being Me! (A supported journey to adulthood) is a lottery-funded project that supports young people aged 14-25, with sensory impairment and complex communication needs on their journey into adult life. The project covers South East Wales and Cardiff areas, and is in its final year of the five-year project.

In addition, we hold a wide range of activities to help young people learn life skills, as well as helping them to build confidence and independence.

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Supporting a right to independence

A man helping two people by pointing to something

My name is Christopher and I work part-time as a support worker for Ben and John in their supported living service. I combine this with working as an artist and arts facilitator. I am Deaf and use British Sign Language, lip-reading and speaking to communicate.

When I first started working for Sense, I spent time shadowing other members of staff. I wanted to know Ben and John a little better so I could understand their likes, dislikes and individual needs. It was a bit daunting at first but we have gotten to know each other and have since built a good rapport with one another. They responded to different support workers in different ways; Ben’s a cheeky person (like myself) so we are well-matched, personality wise.

I like the contrast between my two jobs – It’s good for my brain to adapt and change to different environments. My work as an artist can be very intense so it’s good to have variety every now and then.

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A sailing adventure for children with sensory impairments

Young boy smiling on a boat with his father and training instructor

Children with sensory impairments made friends and experienced something completely new when they recently joined Sense for an accessible sailing adventure in the Pennines.

As a Children and Family Support Worker for Sense, I’m lucky enough to witness the connections made and experiences shared by families and children who, through our monthly events, get to try new things like canoeing and sailing.

Once a month, we organise family events in various locations across northern England, helping them to create lifelong friendships whilst supporting one another. They get the opportunity to take part in activities they wouldn’t normally try – whilst ensuring they are accessible, enjoyable and fun!

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How Sense is providing award-winning support to its Care Managers

Three people side by side, one holding a certificateAt Sense, we recognise the importance of supporting our registered care managers. Their role is absolutely critical for providing high quality support services and enabling the people we support to achieve outcomes.

Registered care managers set the culture and quality for the services they manage – from the recruitment and support of person centred teams through to their focus on continuous improvement and development of their services. However, we should not underestimate the demands and pressure of the role. They will frequently be juggling many competing demands and requests, both within the service but also from families, commissioners and care managers, and from head office. How do they fit it all into their working day?

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When you have sight and hearing loss, group discussions can be really difficult

Graphic with photo of Gary and text that reads "I felt misunderstood and very alone"

As someone who has sight and hearing loss, I would like to draw attention to the feelings of isolation and loneliness within one’s circle of friends and family. Although in some cases this can be attributed to one’s personality, it is possible to feel ‘left out’ by their nearest and dearest.

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Like many disabled people, I experience loneliness on a daily basis

"Simple things like going to the pub can the stressful" - Ian, Jo Cox LonelinessI experience loneliness on a daily basis, as do many disabled people I speak to. Public attitudes, accessibility and employment support are all areas that must be addressed if we are to tackle social isolation for disabled people.

I was born partially deaf and have limited vision as a result of Usher syndrome, a progressive condition which slowly causes my eyesight to deteriorate.

I always liked to keep busy with work and friends. However, as my eyesight deteriorated, it felt like my ability to do this became hindered.

But in reality it’s a lack of awareness and support that limit disabled people.

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Co-production – a better way of working together

Two men communicating via hands on deafblind manualPutting people at the heart of decision making is a key strategic priority for Sense.

Our aspiration is to move to a co-production approach where people actively contribute to every stage of planning, design, development and service delivery across all parts of Sense, reflecting our ‘I’ Statement: ‘No decision about me, without me’

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Being part of a special event in someone else’s life is a privilege

Marie with her family
Marie with her family

I started visiting Marie as communicator guide in her nursing home in December 2013. I took this up as part of my care role at the Sense Tanglewood residential home, mainly to do something a little different. Marie’s previous communicator guides had to travel a long way to be with her and I lived quite close by. It was through this role that I had the opportunity to assist Marie on a rare visit home.

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