Disability employment gap

CII were recently invited to give evidence to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee. This is the first time that evidence has been specifically sought from people living with energy limiting chronic illness – ELCI.

You can watch our Director Catherine Hale giving evidence on YouTube.

Catherine’s speech begins approximately 1 hour and 7 minutes into the recording.

I already have a job… getting through the day

Our latest Report

The ‘I already have a job…’ report, by Chronic Illness Inclusion and Leeds University Business School, sets out how government, employers and the benefits system are failing millions of people in the UK with Energy Limiting Chronic Illnesses – (ELCIs).

Although one-in-three disabled people of working age experiences problems with stamina, breathing or fatigue, the report says that their needs are not reflected in the workplace, in legislation, or by disability assessments like the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

Despite ELCIs affecting almost 5 million adults in the UK, these people are hidden within disability-related policies because their lived experiences of illness and impairment is widely misunderstood, often discredited, denied and disbelieved.

Lack of knowledge about ELCIs and how reasonable adjustments should work, make it impossible for people with these conditions do paid work. The rapid move to home working during the pandemic shows that such change is possible. It is imperative that employers continue such beneficial practices.

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‘Reclaiming’ Chronic Illness

Our Director Catherine Hale and Anita Ruddock recently took part is an event organised by the School of Health Sciences at City, University of London.

These events and seminars provide a platform for academics, practitioners and service users to discuss developments on best practice and help promote social inclusion for disabled people and others at risk of social exclusion, through research, teaching and consultancy.

You can watch the event on YouTube

 

It’s Our Community

Catherine Hale spoke at It’s Our Community, a conference on social care reform. Catherine explained the high prevalence of energy limiting conditions and the psychological impact of not being believed.

I was a social care user back in the 1990s. I’ve had my chronic illness for over three decades and when it was really acute, and I couldn’t wash feed myself, or go to the loo, I had a care package. But later years when things were less severe, my needs were harder to grasp because my impairment was invisible and poorly understood. The social care system completely let me down. As a disabled lone parent I had no support.

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Flexibility: energy limiting chronic illness and the future of work

Anna Ruddock writes about some options.

On the face of it, organisations are getting better at facilitating “flexible working”. Inevitably, some are moving faster and more innovatively than others.

Some of those others have yet to acknowledge that flexible working is an employment right that has been enshrined in UK legislation since 2014 rather than a reward for productivity. Nevertheless, you’d struggle to find an office-based organisation that hasn’t realised that flexible working is something they need to be thinking about.

So far so things-are-improving. That said, it’s a very limited definition of “flexibility” that is incorporated into most flexible working policies. What it usually means is a policy to allow employees to work outside the office. Which is important for those who benefit from it, including disabled people with energy limiting chronic illnesses (ELCI*), like me, who are well enough to work part-time but cannot physically spend all of that time in an office.

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The Uncertainty Principle

Fran Halsall on the consequences of a late diagnosis and living with multiple chronic conditions.

Humans do not cope well with uncertainty, yet I am forced to confront it every day. People like me, with multiple diagnoses, can find that each new one brings not only clarity but also an extra layer of complexity that can be hard to live with.

When trying to explain my medical situation there are six diseases/disorders to choose from. Yet I often talk about multiple sclerosis first, despite the fact that on any given day it might be the least of my problems. There are reasons for this: people have heard of MS and it is taken seriously. It is an easy shorthand for establishing why my life has not turned out as originally planned.

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Changing the system so that more chronically ill people can work

Victoria Clutton highlights the barriers to work faced by the chronically ill.

In May, I started my first ever job which I found through a wonderful charity called Astriid. My job is five hours a week, working from home, with no set hours and amazingly supportive co-workers – the holy grail of employment opportunities for the chronically ill. Even so, it’s been a huge adjustment and ongoing struggle. A few years ago I was declared fit for work despite protestations by my doctor and two other medical specialists. The experience was a year of ludicrous horror before I eventually relapsed badly enough for it to be worth re-applying for benefits. These contrasting experiences have caused me to reflect on the changes that are necessary to allow more chronically ill people to work.

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It’s not ME, it’s you – can the chronically ill embrace the social model?

Leonora Gunn discusses society’s role in improving the lives of the chronically ill.

The big idea of the social model is to distinguish between ‘impairment’ and ‘disability’: ‘impairment’ is someone’s condition, ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis, or ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’) in my case, whereas ‘disability’ describes the way that impaired people are oppressed and excluded from society on top of their impairments. This challenges the assumption that disabled people need to be ‘fixed’ or changed to fit in to society, and suggests that society needs to be changed to include everyone.

This might seem like a funny thing for someone like me, with a chronic illness, to believe. Surely illnesses, like ME, need ‘fixing’? And how can it be society’s fault that I am ill?

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On not being believed

Wheelchair Vista on the lasting effects of being doubted.

Many of us with long term conditions struggle to accept that we can no longer live life as we used to. It took me almost ten years.

I carried on working for longer than I should. A resident at the care home I managed said; “It’s doing you no good keeping on working. Why don’t you reduce your hours or stop altogether?” She saw that I could not stand for long without leaning against a wall. Staff noticed that I always relied on the lift and was often in urgent need of the loo.

When I had time off work for minor surgery it had to be extended due to massive bruising sustained in a car crash. This was soon followed by investigations for IBS and a referral for knee surgery, which culminated in my employment contract being ended.

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Chronic Illness and graduation

Rebecca Boot tackles the painful subject of employment for the chronically ill.

I’m back at university, studying again after my body threw a fantastic tantrum the last time I tried it.

My university has a real focus on employment and one of the highest graduate employment rates in the country. That is great, everyone wants to be able to get a good job when they leave university right? Isn’t that the point of going?

Not really, not for me at least. I applied to Uni because I love learning and my brain likes to be busy.

But here’s the rub – I am not employable, not really, not as I am now. I have plenty of skills, I am smart, I’m a self-starter, I have a whole bunch of somewhat impressive things on my CV, I meet the person specification for a whole lot of jobs already. But I’m not employable.

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