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Ready Devon

Meet Julia—the employer who saw ability in learning disability.

Disability Confident

The untapped talent pool

Across Devon thousands of employers are spending thousands of pounds on recruitment agencies, desperately seeking reliable and engaged staff. Meanwhile, thousands of people with learning disabilities, mental health conditions and autism are looking for work. They are skilled and ready to work, all that they need is to be matched with the right roles.

  • Julia and Paul sat at Paul's desk looking happy
  • Julia stood in the reception area of Torbay Hospital smiling at the camera
  • Paul sat at his desk reading a work folder

Why employing people with disabilities is good for business

Torbay Hospital, a Disability Confident employer, is a great example of where matching the right person to the right role has real advantages. Julia works in the Transfusion department where she is line manager to Paul, who has a learning disability. While having Paul join the team has been challenging at times, it’s also been an experience she’s really enjoyed. Here’s Julia’s story:

“When Paul first came to us during his internship with Project Search, he was working from the hours of 10am – 2pm. I was there to help and support him, almost like a work buddy, so he didn’t need a job coach or support worker at all. Even when he joined us permanently, I just continued to support him.”

“We are a very small team and having Paul as a part of it has been really beneficial. The work he does enables me to concentrate on the bigger picture and complete my own workload, instead of being tied up with lots of little admin tasks. Over the four years he’s been with us, Paul’s role has evolved and grown so that now we have much more capacity in the team to complete our higher-level tasks.”

“He’s also really helpful when it comes to keeping things simple. Paul reviews the training slides that I produce to see if there’s anything I could simplify. He asks questions when things don’t make sense and it helps me to think about the message I’m giving to staff and how I can make it easier to understand. He has produced many ‘quick and easy’ guides on our electronic blood tracking system to help the clinical staff and he also animates the presentations to make them more engaging, and we’ve had really positive feedback from staff across the hospital. Right now, he’s producing a skeleton of the presentations with mandatory information on for me to review and expand.”

“That’s not to say we haven’t had our challenges. Paul’s spelling and grammar is really his weakness. Luckily, the communications within Paul’s job can be highly repetitive, so we’ve created a series of templates which Paul can pull from if he needs to email staff about anything that’s routine or regular. It’s the same with phones. We take the time to reflect on a call after he’s taken one, so that he can learn from the experience and know how to improve for the next time.”

“In fact, for us, we have had to make very few adjustments to enable Paul to fulfil his role. Our organisation operates a flexible working policy, and we take advantage of this. Paul is employed for 20 hours a week, usually worked over four days, he plans his own workload and prioritises his tasks and he will arrange his working days/hours. Paul is able to work independently for a vast proportion of his role, however there are still a few areas where he needs support and guidance. He is aware of his own limitations and again will plan his working day around the availability of any support required; often working shorter days when in the office alone and longer days when other team members are available.”

“Seeing his confidence grow has been amazing. When Paul first arrived he was very, very shy. He would hunch up and go very red when anyone spoke to him. Now after four years he walks tall and fully engages with his immediate colleagues, he now has the confidence to independently visit other areas within the organisation where he assists and supports clinical staff members with our blood safety technology.”

“For any employers out there thinking of taking on an employee with disabilities or becoming Disability Confident, I’d say it’s not as difficult as you’d imagine. When you hit a challenge, it doesn’t need to mean making a massive change. You need to look at what they can do, the positives and often there’s a really simple solution that can make a difference. All it takes is being open to doing things a new way.”

Want to join Torbay Hospital in welcoming people with disabilities into your business? Ask to be contacted by a Jobcentre Plus local Employer Advisor.