Employment: Barriers

Oral Answers to Questions — Employment and Learning – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:30 pm on 11th May 2015.

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Photo of Ian Milne Ian Milne Sinn Féin 3:30 pm, 11th May 2015

2. Mr Milne asked the Minister for Employment and Learning what action he is taking to remove the barriers faced by the blind, partially sighted and deaf communities in gaining employment. (AQO 8062/11-15)

Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance

My Department provides a range of services that help to remove barriers to employment for people with disabilities, including those with a sensory impairment or disability. Specialist advice and guidance is provided by careers advisers working with colleagues from the employment service to agree the most suitable provision that will help people to overcome their disability-related barriers to work.

My Department provides additional and specialist support, as well as significant funding, to enable access and participation in pre-employment programmes such as Training for Success and the further and higher education courses available throughout Northern Ireland.

With regard to specific employment interventions, my Department's disability employment service manages and delivers high-quality pre-employment and in-work support programmes that are helping more than 2,000 people with disabilities, including those who are blind or deaf, to find and sustain paid employment each year. Those programmes include Access to Work, Workable, Work Connect and the condition management programme.

The Department has a dedicated occupational psychology service that provides employment assessments for employers and disabled people, including those with sensory disabilities. The Department also provides funding to a number of organisations that support people who are blind, partially sighted or deaf, through a range of training and employment projects under the European social fund disability strand.

Officials have been working in partnership with local disability sector representatives on the development of a new employment and skills strategy for people with disabilities. A draft strategy, including a range of proposals, is due to be issued for public consultation over the coming months. The purpose of the strategy will be to improve the skills, employability, job prospects and careers of people with a full range of disabilities throughout Northern Ireland.

Photo of Ian Milne Ian Milne Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire as na freagraí go dtí seo. I thank the Minister for his answer thus far. Is his Department aware of or even exploring international best practice on how such barriers to employment can be overcome?

Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance

I am happy to confirm that that is the case. Work undertaken to date on developing the new strategy has been informed by some international examples and best practice. We are keen to learn from how things are done in other societies. If you look at our work on apprenticeships and youth training, you will also see that type of approach in action.

Photo of Fearghal McKinney Fearghal McKinney Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Minister for the detail in his answer but could he —

Photo of Mitchel McLaughlin Mitchel McLaughlin Speaker

Speak into the microphone, please.

Photo of Fearghal McKinney Fearghal McKinney Social Democratic and Labour Party

Apologies. Does the Minister believe there are sufficient incentives for employers to afford any necessary adaptations to employ partially sighted or blind people and people from the deaf community?

Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance

Incentives and resourcing are features of some of our programmes, such as Access to Work and Workable.

We are keen to ensure that those are being used as effectively as they can be.

This is about more than simply providing the infrastructure to ensure that people with disabilities can flourish in the workplace; it is about tackling attitudes from employers. Instead of seeing a situation where the employment of someone with a disability is somehow an inconvenience or a burden, this is about ensuring that people understand that this is about equality in the workplace and recognising that people with disabilities are often more dedicated to their workplace and are more productive than many of their peers. We need to ensure that we can attract and draw upon the fullest pool of talent available to society.