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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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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Ill versus disabled – is there a distinction between the two?

Joyce Fox examines society’s differing reactions to disability and chronic illness.

Disabled activist, Stella Young recently wrote: ‘The social model tells us that we are far more disabled by inaccessible environments and hostile attitudes than we are by our physicality. My disability comes not from the fact that I’m unable to walk but from the presence of stairs.’

How true is this of people who are chronically ill? Accessibility is rarely the issue – we often have little energy to go out at all.

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Sorry

Patricia de Wolfe is tired of saying ‘sorry’ on account of her energy-limiting illness.

I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.

Sorry I can’t make it to your birthday party, your family gathering, your funeral. Sorry, no, I can’t come over for tea on Friday. Why? No, I’m not doing anything else. But I’m going out for lunch the Tuesday before. Yes, I know that gives me Wednesday and Thursday to recover but Friday would still be pushing it. And tea is a bit late in the day for me. Yes, I am sure. Perhaps we could meet next week? Yes, I know I cancelled last time. Yes, of course I understand you’re very busy… Sorry.

I want to stop apologising. I want to stop explaining. For me, inclusion would mean, at the very least, living in a society in which it is generally accepted that some people are ill. Chronically. Perhaps permanently. And in which we are not regarded as freaks, or hypochondriacs, or scroungers, or, for that matter, just “poor things”, but as people valiantly trying to cobble together something that feels like a life in the teeth of gargantuan obstacles.

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Chronic illness and education

Geoff Jones recalls his experiences of education as a child with severe chronic illness.

Access to education is often overlooked when considering chronic illness and social exclusion. Education is particularly relevant if those affected become ill during childhood. In today’s Britain, where a university education has arguably become the norm, those becoming chronically ill during childhood may find themselves placed at a significant disadvantage, adding to the societal exclusion already imposed through their physical disabilities.

I became ill aged 13 with glandular fever and was subsequently diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). Over the next three years various attempts were made to provide me with an education, either via home tutoring or part-time attendance at school. Eventually I was sent to a comprehensive with a special unit for those with various medical conditions. Unfortunately, due to a lack of understanding of my condition, I experienced a major relapse and, as I reached the age of 16 shortly afterwards, the educational authorities (probably with some relief) ended their attempts to educate me.

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From ‘sick’ to ‘disabled’ – my own journey

Catherine Hale considers how half a lifetime of chronic illness has changed her understanding of the term ‘disabled’.

I’ve been sick for nearly 30 years. That’s the whole of my adult life. I always thought of myself as ‘disabled’ in the sense of being very incapacitated. During my bedbound phase I couldn’t wash, feed myself, go to the toilet or write my own name; nor could I read, watch TV or have a conversation.

But I never thought of myself as ‘disabled’ in the political sense used by the disabled people’s movement. That is, I never thought the disadvantages I suffered in not having a job, a career, or a social life were due to an infringement of my rights. It didn’t make sense to blame my profound isolation on other people or organisations excluding me unnecessarily or treating me unfairly.

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