Latest study shows improvements for young people with vision impairment entering employment but more needs to be done

The study has followed the experiences of the same group of young people with vision impairment from secondary school into further education and employment.

A total of 47 young people with vision impairment took part in the latest survey which showed nearly half of the participants [23] are in employment between 2018/19 compared to 14 in 2017.

Four participants who had been NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training) moved into employment but five that had previously been engaged in other activities became NEET.

Positively, three quarters (76%) said they had been in a form of paid employment at some point. Of those that hadn’t had any experience of paid employment nine had never searched for employment opportunities.

Of those that had looked for work during the 12 months between survey interviews:

  • 11 of the participants said they had been to a Job Centre to find a job, and five to access specialist support.
  • Four were told by Job Centre staff that they couldn’t help a person with a vision impairment. Four had their ability to work questioned by Job Centre staff and were advised that they didn’t need to work because of the benefits they received. Two described inaccessible systems and processes.
  • The study has consistently identified a low uptake of Access to Work, and in this round of interviews, only six of the participants in employment accessed this scheme.

The latest round of interviews demonstrates that participants are inching further towards the labour market. However, some of the young people with vision impairment remain in low level work or have become NEET since leaving their studies, and in several cases aren’t involved in any activities that might help them move closer to the labour market. More must be done to support these young people to fulfil their individual potential.

Professor Graeme Douglas, Head of the department of Disability, Inclusion and Special Needs, and co-director of VICTAR: “The Longitudinal Transition Study offers an extraordinary insight into the experiences of young people with vision impairment as they seek employment. It is wonderful to hear of their success which has resulted from their hard work and impressive range of skills, as well as the inclusivity and support of services and employers. Nevertheless, the research also exposes examples of some young people facing significant barriers. Of particular concern is the lack of active support offered by some job centres and the low uptake of Access to Work (AtW), a government programme specifically aimed to support disabled people take up and remain in work. This needs urgent attention.”

Charles Colquhoun, Chief Executive of Thomas Pocklington Trust: “The transition study is an important piece of research that provides an in-depth look at the journey young people with vision impairment take to get into employment.

“This latest stage of the study shows welcoming news that more people involved in the study were in employment. However, much of this employment is short term or low paid work, and it has taken several years for these young people to transition into work.

“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.”

VICTAR and Thomas Pocklington Trust are calling for more sustained and continued support for young people with vision impairment to support them through education into employment which should include

  1. Clear and tailored careers advice that supports these young people to identify the range of opportunities that are available to them
  2. Job Centre staff to be trained in the needs of clients with vision impairments, so that they can provide appropriate support to help them to find a job, including signposting to appropriate services.
  3. More must be done to support young people with vision during secondary education to build their confidence, self-esteem and knowledge base on what they can achieve and to equip them with the independence skills they require.

 


About the research

The study was designed in 2009 by a team from Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and the Vision Impairment Centre for Teaching and Research (VICTAR) at the University of Birmingham.

Phase three commenced in November 2015 and is funded by Thomas Pocklington Trust until 2019. Previous stages have been funded by RNIB and The Nuffield Foundation. Technical reports and briefings are available from these stages at: www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/education/research/victar/research/longitudinal-transitions-study/index.aspx

The key objectives of the project were to:

  • Track the process of transition for young people with vision impairment from age 14 for [initially] five years
  • Identify the roles of professionals involved
  • Recognise the factors that improve or reduce a young person’s chance of gaining employment.

The research findings continue to be applied in practical ways, including developing resources to help young people with vision impairment navigating various transitions and professionals supporting them.

The University of Birmingham is ranked among the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.

Read more on the University of Birmingham website.