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More can be done to help young visually impaired people into work

A new report highlights the barriers to employment for young people living with a vision impairment

row of people sitting down
A report has found that the number of young people living with vision impairment entering employment has increased but recommends that more still needs to be done.

The study has been published by the Vision Impairment Centre for Teaching and Research (VICTAR) at the University of Birmingham and the Thomas Pocklington Trust.

The survey of 47 young people living with vision impairment found that 23 were in employment between 2018 and 2019 compared to 14 in 2017.

Head of the department of disability, inclusion and special needs and co-director of VICTAR at the University of Birmingham, Professor Graeme Douglas, said that it is “wonderful” to hear the success stories of young people living with vision impairment.

However, he added that there are still significant barriers to work that need to be overcome. “Of particular concern is the lack of active support offered by some job centres and the low uptake of Access to Work, a government programme specifically aimed to support disabled people take up and remain in work. This needs urgent attention,” he shared.

The study found that four participants who were classified as not in employment, education or training (NEET) had moved into employment but five participants who had previously been engaged in other activities were now NEET.

Of the respondents, 76% said they had been in a form of paid employment at some point. Of those that had not had any experience of paid employment, nine had never searched for employment opportunities.

A total of 11 participants said they had been to a Job Centre to find work, but four were told by staff that they could not help a person with a vision impairment. Four participants had their capability to work questioned and were advised that they did not need to work because of the benefits they received.

VICTAR and the Thomas Pocklington Trust are calling for more sustained and continued support to get more young people living with vision impairment through education and into employment.

The organisations highlighted that clear and tailored advice to identify opportunities is needed, as well as training for Job Centre staff on the needs of clients living with vision impairment, and further support during secondary education to build confidence and self-esteem.

Chief executive of the Thomas Pocklington Trust, Charles Colquhoun, said: “It is concerning to read the experience some young people reported they had with Job Centre staff who claimed they couldn’t help a person with a vision impairment and the inaccessible systems and processes. It flags the need for more training with Job Centre staff to provide the support vision impaired young people need. We will continue to work with sector partners to tackle the unemployment gap and we eagerly await the final stage of this important research in mid-2020.”