This is my first official post for Deaeper, the blog site for DEAEP (Disability Enabling And Empowerment Project), and wearing my professional hat, I wanted to share my experience of working with 3 other disabled people, collectively utilising our skills and experience to become financially viably self employed. The following has been adapted from a letter I sent to Kate Green MP in response to Labour’s plan to turn around £8 billion overspend on disability benefits, and the suggestions at the end are specifically aimed at Government.
DEAEP is a charitable social enterprise that offers training and support to sick and disabled people, unemployed, and other vulnerable individuals. Our training experience enables participants to, knowledgeably and confidently, actively support others during times of extreme stress; this could be attending ATOS assessments and, or to participate in social and community engagement.
Our training programme has been specifically designed by sick & disabled people to enable others develop necessary the skills, ability and confidence, to actively empower others to self advocate when needed. We can also offer the opportunity for participants to train as a skill sharer, thus enabling them to impart this learning to others. Alternatively participants might utilise this programme to go onto other further education or into employment. There is a the supervised practice element of the programme wherein participants will provide supervised advocacy for others.
This year we have supported over a dozen users through their varying claims, and issues with the DWP, we have helped people write successfully ESA & PIP applications, supported others with mandatory reconsiderations and represented people at tribunal, we have also enabled people manage their issues with job related training programmes. We have piloted out training programme and from this gained five volunteers skilled to offer this type of support to their peers. All of the which has been at personal cost to ourselves both financially and in terms of health.
Our overall aim is to enable chronically sick and disabled people participate in society through the provision of an appropriate range of training opportunities, which allows participants to either enrol on Further & Higher Education, gain the necessary skills to confidently enter Community Engagement enter employment or, fully re-engage in Society; and to enable those too ill to work access the social security the are rightly entitled to.
We are experiencing several primary issues :
Our target group have no access to finances to pay for this essential service
There is no money to help us ‘sell’ our corporate training to the people who want/need it; despite having hard evidence of demand from Unite the Union and several solicitors offices.
We have no way of paying for the administration costs of running the course.
The fact we are all disabled creates problems for us personally with the DWP
An acknowledgement by DWP that disabled people often require more time to complete tasks and their energy levels are low due to fatigue.
We believe the following would make a huge difference
A loosening of the earning on benefits regulations would allow people to continue receiving ESA/JSA until such time they become financially independent
Access for small companies to government grants/contracts which offer direct provision to disabled people
A government funded grant programme enabling disabled people develop the confidence and self awareness to allow them access further opportunities
Changes to access to FE opportunities specifically aimed at disabled adults thus removing the current barriers
This is a précis of our experience to date and I would welcome positive feedback and comments from others on this post.
Thanks for reading – Jayne x