DWP Minister to visit RNIB Scotland's employment services

Post date: 
Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work Penny Mordaunt MP will visit the Edinburgh headquarters of sight loss charity RNIB Scotland on Tuesday 25 October 2016.

Ms Mordaunt will discuss how blind and partially sighted people can overcome employer misperceptions about what they can do in the workplace.

There are around 8,500 blind and partially sighted people of working age in Scotland. But many employers still assume this group would be difficult or even impossible to employ.

Minister for Disabled People, Work and Health, Penny Mordaunt, said: "Disabled people can face disadvantage in the labour market, despite having valuable skills and talents to offer. That's why we are doing more than ever before to ensure people have the right support to find employment and thrive in it.

"Our Disability Confident campaign is encouraging employers to recognise the benefits disabled people bring to the workplace, while our Access to Work Scheme is helping to fund practical support. Employers now have no excuse not to wake up to the vast talent pool that disabled people represent."

RNIB Scotland director Campbell Chalmers said: "While the employment rate of those with disabilities generally continues to increase, the rate for people with sight loss has remained at around 29 per cent, compared with 76 per cent for the general population.

"Yet in many cases, an employer might only need to make relatively minor adjustments to the workplace environment. And where a worker might need additional aids or equipment, the costs can often be subsidised by government schemes such as Access to Work.

"We know of journalists, teachers, bankers and physicists working in Scotland with sight loss. It's about encouraging employers to focus on what people are able to do, not what they can't."

During her visit, Ms Mordaunt will meet clients and staff at Cafe Tiki, which provides low-cost lunches and snacks within the RNIB Scotland building. Over half of its employees have sight loss.

RNIB Scotland supports around 500 blind and partially sighted jobseekers each year, helps 70 people into jobs, and 80 people who lose their sight later in life to retain their jobs. It provides advice, guidance, training and technology support, and is a partner in government employment schemes such as Work Choice.

The charity's 'employment hubs' in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Aberdeen, Dundee and Perth assist clients to find work, learning or volunteering opportunities. It also supports young people between 15 and 25 with sight loss in making the transition from school to college, university, training or employment.

Ms Mordaunt and RNIB are taking part in the Rehab International World Congress in Edinburgh this week [October 25-27th], which will be attended by over 1,000 delegates and speakers from over 60 countries.

Case Study - Fiona Watt.

Fiona Watt (33) from Edinburgh was diagnosed with the sight loss condition retinitis pigmentosa at three. But she still managed to learn braille within three years to sit exams at school and college.

After graduating, she was offered her first job in 2005. But this offer was retracted because working conditions were unable to be adapted. Losing her confidence, Fiona suffered from depression and took almost six years to overcome a fear about applying for other jobs and facing further rejection. "I got quite a bad bout of depression," she says. "I didn't have much self worth. I think you feel like you don't have a purpose and are letting people down."

Things improved last year when Fiona finally secured a job at Hanover Housing Association as a receptionist. RNIB Scotland helped ensure that, on her first day, all the necessary aids and equipment were in place. "I sat down at my desk and was able to do my job straight away," she says.

Fiona's deteriorating sight is now in the severe stages, with the sight from her left eye recently disappearing completely. But the stability of her permanent job has helped her remain positive. "Having a focus is what gets you out of bed in the morning. I remember the first day I got my first wage slip. I think I came dancing in the door. It is a good feeling when you earn your wage and you are providing for yourself.

"I think when you have a disability, determination is paramount in your head because you have got to fight that bit harder. I think a lot of people don't actually realise that people with a disability have a lot to give."