Essex County Council has pledged to become one of Britain’s first accredited employers under the Department for Work and Pension’s nationwide Disability Confident campaign, and is now challenging other Essex businesses to close the disability employment gap.
It wants disabled people to make up at least 7.5 per cent of the council’s workforce by 2018, from 300 to 500 employees.
The county’s first candidate, Chelsey Reynolds, impressed so much during three weeks’ work experience at County Hall, Chelmsford, she secured a full-time role as a communications officer – something she thought was out of reach.
The 25-year-old said: “In 2011 I was working as a healthcare assistant and training to be a nurse at Broomfield Hospital and all of a sudden I got this condition called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) which came out of absolutely nowhere.
“It basically means my blood just isn’t doing its job properly, so when I stand up, no blood goes to my brain and I just pass out. Therefore I have to stay seated all the time so I’m in a wheelchair.
“It was really difficult losing my job. I absolutely loved caring for patients at the hospital and felt I’d found my career, so to lose that at 20-years-old, I just thought ‘what am I about now, what’s the point?”
There are nearly seven million working age disabled people in the UK, 149,600 of whom live in Essex. The Office for National Statistics from March show there were 78,700 disabled people in Essex in work - 52.6 per cent of the disabled population.
The Essex unemployment rate for disabled people is 7.6 per cent, considerably less than the 10.1 per cent British average.
The work placements at ECC offer valuable experience and an opportunity to build confidence in the workplace, breaking the cycle many disabled jobseekers face: unable to get a job due to lack of experience and lack of experience because they can’t get a job.
To find about what support is available to get into work, visit your local Jobcentre plus. To enquire about roles about at Essex County Council, visit www.workingforessex.com