Disability History Month: Youth Unemployment and Disability

In Disability History Month, issues surrounding disabled young people and barriers to employment need to be publicised. It is no great secret that young disabled people are less likely to be employed than non-disabled people. A study by Tania Burchardt from 2005 stated that by the age of 26 disabled people were four times more likely to be unemployed than non-disabled youth (p.xii). At 26, 41% of disabled people had also not achieved their aspirations in education, which is much higher than non-disabled people of the same age (Burchardt 2005 p.xii). This leads to chronic underemployment or unemployment as current initiatives surrounding employability and entrepreneurship often exclude disabled people as they sometimes are unable to fit into certain models of success (Pavey 2006 p.224). Against some misguided opinions, this is not because disabled people do not want to work/be in further education, as the inability to meet their aspirations to find meaningful employment causes frustration (Burchardt 2005). Burchardt identifies that one of the major stumbling blocks is the lack of the extra supported required for people with disabilities in transitioning from education to employment (2005). This is because people often fail to recognise the social model of disability, where disability stems from barriers not the person, as this means many disabled people would be capable of work if reasonable adjustments were developed (Shakespeare 2016 p.197-198). However, this also speaks to larger problem around the concept of ‘employability’ as often disabled people face unconscious bias while attempting to gain employment due to a perceived lack of worth or ability (Pavey 2006). Too often perceptions of disabled people are them being outside the realms of employment whereas, for many, it is the stigma and the inaccessible nature of many workplace environments which is the real obstacle (Burchardt 2004). Therefore, disability internship programmes are important as they help the candidate to gain relevant experience as well as encouraging companies to adapt their attitude to potential disabled employees. However, these programmes often only cater for people who are already in further education and not those who have faced barriers in education so they still leave a lot of disabled young people without opportunities.

At The Future Melting Pot, we have worked tirelessly to give unemployed young people within the West Midlands a chance to develop their skills and become involved in the region’s growth. We are devoted to helping those who often left behind and this undoubtedly includes disabled people who are often ignored by initiatives. In building a better world, barriers to employment and need to be removed so that disabled people are given an equal chance to show how they can succeed in a role. In working collaboratively with other organisations and businesses there is scope to create an effective and sustainable model to help disabled young people transition into employment. There is a real need for a third sector organisation which can specialise in supporting disabled young people gain relevant skills and experiences, while also helping businesses adapt their workplaces for better disabled accessibility. Disabled people being unable to find employment is a huge a waste of talent which negatively effects both potential employers and the disabled people themselves. An organisation which would prevent disabled people from being forgotten would be invaluable to the communities in which it operates as it would foster social cohesion, growth, and a fairer society.

Burchardt. T. 2004. Capabilities and disability: the capabilities framework and the social model of disability. Disability & Society, 19:7, 735-751

Burchardt. T. 2005. The education and employment of disabled young people: Frustrated ambition. The Policy Press. Bristol: England

Pavey. B. 2006. Human capital, social capital, entrepreneurship and disability: an examination of some current educational trends in the UK. Disability & Society, 21:3, 217-229

Shakespear. T. 2016. The Social Model of Disability. In The Disability Studies Reader. Edited by Davis. L. Routledge. Oxford: England

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