Categories
Equality and Diversity Flexible Working Lifestyle Mental Health

Dogs Do Good

Why dogs can end isolation and create accessible employment opportunities for the disabled community.

Did you feel lonely, isolated or even a bit ‘stir crazy’ during the last 16 months of the pandemic?

How many of you succumbed to buying a dog as an incentive to get out of the house or just for a good, old cuddle – in these more isolated times?

Whether you’ve found it to be a positive or a negative working from home, we’re all agreed that we feel lucky to be employed after the last 18 months of increase unemployment, recruitment freezes and furlough – all creating an atmosphere of uncertainty about what our economic futures hold.

We can now have a more compassionate understanding of how it must feel to be disabled (whether visibly disabled or invisible).

You can’t take for granted that you’ll have opportunities to live as you’d like, are often cut off from community or work opportunities and can face length periods of loneliness.

Of the 8.4 Million people of working age (16-64) registered as disabled in the UK, only 53.6% are in employment.

Whilst this was an increase year on year (in Oct-Dec 2020), it is still lower in comparison to those who don’t have a disability, with just 18.3% non-disabled people being unemployed – a whopping 35% difference.

As you’d imagine, Covid certainly hasn’t helped matters.

The proportion of disabled people who are either unemployed or economically inactive has risen from 45.9% to 47.7% this year.

That’s over 4 Million people in the UK whose mental health, self-esteem and contact with the outside world, has likely been compromised, by factors completely outside of their own control.

The link between employment and improved self-esteem has long been documented: Unemployment and Mental Health

As this analysis from the Health Organisation points out, unemployment and mental health is bio-directional.

When you have positive mental health, it boosts your employability.

When your employability declines, your mental health can decline and depression and anxiety often appear as financial stresses take their unfortunate toll.

As many of us may have experienced a job loss, loss of earnings, or even just fallen privy to more financial instability during the last 18 months, hopefully we will have more empathy for anyone that’s disability has prevented them from joining the UK workforce and participation in the economy.

This is where Dogs for Good come in.

If your empathy can translate into wanting to take action, maybe as an Employer you could see how we can right some wrongs via the Dogs for Good corporate sponsorship programmes?

Dogs for Good provide assistance dogs to their service users and clients.

Their furry friends literally help revolutionise lives.

Take this story about how Eider has helped Heather go back to work:

Charitable fundraising has been hit hard in the last 18 months by the pandemic and Dogs for Good are no exception.

They’ve suffered a 25% decrease in voluntary income, as face to face fundraising and their usual ‘Challenge’ events have obviously had to be postponed.

In 2020 they qualified 17 new dogs as Assistance dogs – which is only 1/3 of what they had planned for the year.

Plus COVID’s caused an additional challenge – how to support their clients with social distancing measures in place.

Many of DFG’s clients have reported that the long periods of isolation have had a detrimental impact on their mental wellbeing and a further loss of confidence.

While people with assistance dogs have reported that their pet became even more invaluable as a real ‘lifeline’, Dogs for Good have also had to help the dogs themselves, who have suffered by being more confined to ever-shrinking local areas, due to the stricter social distancing guidelines in the first and second waves especially.

Dogs for Good have a waiting list of over 5,000 people enquiring about support dogs.

A dog would enable them to live the best version of their life possible, with far more independence, confidence and open a world of new opportunity.

This year they need to raise £3 million to fund the running and development of the training and facilitation programmes needed to help their amazing clients get back into their communities and back into employment.

Dogs for Good offer a range of corporate sponsorships starting from as little as £1,000 and more bespoke partnerships can be created.

If you have a Corporate Fundraising scheme at work and you’d like to participate in an annual scheme – the Puppy Partnership is £5,000 per year.

Your company can embark (pun embarrassingly intended) on a 12-month relationship with DFG, that will see “your puppy” go through training and socialise with their new ‘family’…. And yes I am blubbing while typing this.

Your company can even name the Puppy – one of the most ethical and brilliant forms of “product placement” I’ve come across this year.

Plus, it’s a really nice opportunity to have a wellbeing boost, amongst your Team.

Who doesn’t love knowing they’re contributing to improving people’s lives? Who doesn’t love getting pictures of dogs?

DFG will send your company regular updates on how the new partnership is going.

Plus, if you happen to help support someone back into employment through your Puppy Sponsorship, your team will ‘KNOW’, they’ve contributed massively towards helping level the playing field when it comes to reducing the number of disabled people in unemployment.

While we appreciate requests for fundraising are at all-time high, those of us working in the HR and recruitment space understand how vital it is, we help mobilise the disabled work force.

In fact, we believe that dogs and technology, (not necessarily our politicians unfortunately), present the best opportunity to change so many people’s lives for the better over the coming years.

We just need a bit of support from You – our friends working within our UK businesses.

Let’s all help benefit society and the economy by making employment accessible to as many people as possible.

Let’s focus on everyone’s ability, not their disability.

This really is the Future of Work we need to see.

A dog really is a friend for life and an actual lifeline for so many.

Get involved today and let’s make Change for Good, with Dogs for Good.

Categories
Careers Disability Flexible Working

Epilepsy And Employment

A Personal Story

Is Epilepsy A Disability?

When is epilepsy considered a disability? Epilepsy comes in many forms. Some more severe than others. According to The Equality Act 2010: “You’re disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.” The Equality Act 2010 aims to ensure all people are treated fairly and not discriminated against. This applies to employment, school and learning, and accessing services. 

We are sharing a personal account from a member of our own team. Barbara’s working life began before The Equality Act was passed. Barbara suffers from epilepsy and wanted to share her story about how it has affected her working life.

Barbara’s Story

Diversity and Inclusion. These two words mean a lot to me and I wish that 47 years ago it had meant something to employers. Sadly in my experience it meant nothing. I suffer from Epilepsy, an invisible disability yet it certainly becomes incredibly visible when you have a seizure.

I was diagnosed with epilepsy (petit mal with grand mal fits) at the age of 17. Albeit I’d been having fits since I was 11. This coincided with the removal of my appendix. Things were very different back in the 60’s. So there I am, a 17 year old wanting to be one of the crowd. However I didn’t feel I could be. I wanted a Saturday job, to drive a car, to go out with my friends without my (fabulous) parents keeping a beady eye on me constantly. These things, which may seem normal to a lot of people, were out of reach for me.

Telling The Truth About My Epilepsy To Potential Employers

The job was the most important issue. The need to earn my own money was strong. I wanted my independence to buy those Levis or the new Cat Stevens album. I walked around my hometown going into every shop and everyone asked, was I healthy? Being honest, I felt I had no option but to tell the truth. When I told potential employers I suffered from epilepsy, the response was a resounding no. They couldn’t risk me having a fit (as they were known then) in front of people. I felt so deflated. I felt like the odd one out and I was.

Lying About My Epilepsy Got Me A Job

Not to be deterred I changed tactics. When looking for a role, I lied. I said I had no health issues. What a difference, 4 offers of jobs. I was so excited. And so I started working on a Saturday at a well-known shoe shop and then the worst happened. I had a seizure whilst working. Subsequently, I was hauled off to hospital (and had no memory of it) to be popped in a corner as there was nothing they could do. My parents collected me. They then had to break the news to me that I had been sacked from my role. I was sacked for not being honest and also as their customers did not want to see a member of staff having a seizure.

From a confident and outgoing teenager, I became angry and hurt. I had no understanding why my disability should prevent me from working. I wanted to be a children’s nurse. Sadly however due to my epilepsy I was not allowed. Nothing else at the time was good enough. It was really hard.

Finally An Employer Who Understood

It took me until I was 21 to find a permanent job with a company that had faith in me, despite my epilepsy. The company was ‘Clinique’ part of the Estee Lauder Group. I remember like it was yesterday them saying it was about me, not my epilepsy. Luckily I generally knew when I was going to have a seizure. I would just tell my manager, no more ambulances and hospitals.

I did not stay there forever but they gave me my confidence back. A determination to fight the discrimination against disabilities. Most of all, be proud of who I was, epilepsy and all.

Sadly as a country we had to wait until 2010 for the Equality Act. I was 54, already having battled most of my working life through discrimination. Life wasn’t all bad though, I have three fantastic children despite being told not to have any.

A Message About Inclusion To Employers

My message to employers is this. Remember, there are so many invisible disabilities and people have a right to be included in the workplace without judgment. These are strong and talented people who want a chance to have a successful career, a job they love and to be part of the team. They don’t want sympathy, they want your understanding. 

Hence why flexible working is the way forward, it is the future of work. If an employee needs a different way or place to work, this should be discussed without judgment or prejudice. By embracing inclusion every employer has a lot to gain. Every disabled person has something to offer, they don’t let their disability get in their way, especially when it’s so easy these days to find disability insurance from a website like this, so don’t let employment discrimination stop them either.

Be kind, you never know what people are going through.

Barbara

Thank you Barbara for sharing your story. I’m sure many can relate when it comes to being honest about health issues with potential employers.

Diversity and Inclusion are two key components of our values here at The Find Your Flex Group. We firmly believe that flexible working and an inclusive work culture not only encourages but drives diversity. The benefits of diversity are numerous. For example higher retention rates, a bigger talent pool to recruit from, increased innovation not to mention the benefits for the individuals.

For further advice about living with epilepsy and employment:

Epilepsy.org – Employment campaign

EpilepsySociety.org.uk – Work, employment and epilepsy