More disabled people seeking jobs, training


There was a 17.5 per cent increase in the first nine months of the year in the number of disabled people seeking employment and training. This figure emerges from the latest statistics supplied by the National Rehabilitation Board (NRB). The board said it assisted 3,740 people in the period, compared with 3,183 for the corresponding period of 1997.

Dr Arthur O'Reilly, the NRB chief executive, said yesterday that most people with disabilities wanted to work but faced barriers such as access to the physical environment and negative attitudes. He welcomed the decision of the Government to transfer responsibility for certain vocational training and employment services from the Department of Health and Children to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

This would emphasise that the issue for disabled people seeking work was not primarily one of health but of equality of opportunity, he said.

The NRB figures showed disabled people on the Employment Support Service received a weekly wage of £154. NRB paid a subsidy of £60 in each case.

Eighty employers received an average grant of £1,730 for adaptations made to the workplace or to equipment, including voice synthesisers for visually impaired computer operators and alarm systems with flashing lights to assist deaf people.

Dr O'Reilly said: "Adaptations often cost little or nothing to the employer and the benefits can be enormous, both for the employee and the employer. Employers who take on people with disabilities under the subsidy scheme talk of the commitment to the job that they experience among people with disabilities and urge other employers to follow their lead."