Let’s Talk

Here’s a quirky little film that I thought I’d share – aimed at employers to help them discuss mental health with their staff.

This film has been produced through the MINDFUL EMPLOYER initiative which provides managers, businesses and organisations with information, support and training regarding staff who experience stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions.


“Talking about mental health at work is difficult for everyone concerned. Beginning as a black and white, silent movie, Let’s Talk portrays the difficulties that arise through poor communication. As the film progresses, it gains both colour and a voice as we see how talking to each other enables support and understanding.”

Watch now at https://youtu.be/K6ThH_1aDf4

Find out more about MINDFUL EMPLOYER.

Claire Byron, AGCAS Disability Task Group, Newcastle University




Career Pathways Project: Supporting students and graduates in the transition to employment – guest post

Many thanks to Eileen Daly (Careers Adviser for Students with Disabilities) at the Careers Advisory Service, Trinity College, Dublin. Eileen has provided the guest post below, describing the success of The Career Pathways project partnership…

Career Pathways logo

Career Pathways

The Career Pathways project partnership provided a flexible and individually-tailored transition service for students with disabilities, accessible throughout college, to support them to prepare for transition to employment.

The project was developed by The Career Advisory Service and the Disability Service in Trinity College Dublin (funded Jan 2014 – 2016 by the Genio trust). Dublin Institute of Technology, University College Dublin, Dublin City University, and Marino Institute of Education were partners in the project. Find out more at http://www.tcd.ie/disability/career/Pathways/

Goals were set collaboratively with the student and a plan of action was agreed. A range of resources were available to students to support them to achieve their individual goals. These included: individual meetings with Occupational Therapists, Careers Advisers, Disability Officers and Assistive Technology Officers.

Students also attended monthly workshops facilitated by peer supporters and a variety of employer events as well as a three day annual boot camp. Career development resources were created via a specially designed e-portfolio system.

The process involved three stages:

  • Exploring your career
  • Building your career
  • Launching your career

Topics discussed in meetings and workshops included CV development, interview preparation, refining reasonable accommodations for the workplace, disclosure of disability at work and managing health and well-being in the workplace.

Project outcomes:

  • 126 students with disabilities used Career Pathways between January 2014 and December 2016.
  • Over 400 individual meetings took place between students and OTs / Careers Advisers.
  • 61 students accessed the ePortfolio system, developed within the project to allow students to log their work related experiences and engagement with resources.
  • 75 students attended monthly workshops and a three day careers boot camp (May 2015 & May 2016) delivered by the OTs, Careers Advisers, peers, ambassadors, and employers.
  • 14 student ambassadors have been recruited who will act as peer mentors to future students.
  • 26 Disability and Careers Service staff from four Dublin colleges have attended training workshops on supporting students with disabilities in their transition to employment.
  • 16 employers have connected with Career Pathways, with three large multi-national employers hosting events in their head offices.


An online resource, “Inclusive approaches to working with students with disabilities – the journey from study to employment” was developed and is available at: https://www.tcd.ie/disability/assets/pdf/Career%20Pathways%20publication.pdf

The project has concluded and we envisage the learning from the project will continue to be beneficial to students, graduates and careers and disability service professionals in the future.

Eileen Daly, Careers Adviser for Students with Disabilities, Careers Advisory Service, Trinity College Dublin, July 2016

Training course

Not sure what is meant by the term “Non-visible Disability”?

Lacking knowledge or confidence when supporting students with a non-visible disability? Then this is the course for you!

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This AGCAS East Midlands Regional Training event will explore some of the issues facing students with a non-visible disability, and enable participants to share good practice and information resources.

The aim of this event is to increase participants’ confidence and knowledge when working with students with non-visible disabilities, and will cover the following –

  • What is a “non-visible” disability?
  • Positive self-marketing for students: role models, and examples of strengths and attributes of those with a non-visible disability.
  • Signs and symptoms of some of the more common non-visible disabilities.
  • Hints and tips for supporting students with a non-visible disability, including information resources.

There will be contributions from two university careers services (De Montfort University, Leicester and the London School of Economics) and a speaker with experience of overcoming a hidden disability to succeed in the workplace.

Some interactive group work will be included as well as the opportunity to share good practice and useful resources.

See the AGCAS website for booking details: http://www.agcas.org.uk/events/1293-Seeing-the-unseen-How-to-spot-and-support-students-with-non-visible-disabilities-Leicester

Alison Skellern, AGCAS Disability Task Group, DMU



Carrying out a disability audit of your careers service

When I agreed to write this blog article, I hadn’t actually been involved in a disability audit of a careers service. I thought this presented a great opportunity to get involved, and decided the best way to learn was to actually carry one out!

Sounds like a lot of work… why bother?

The Equality Act (2010) places an anticipatory duty to arrange reasonable adjustments to provide inclusive access to services for disabled people. Carrying out an audit will enable a careers service to take stock of what adjustments already exist, and where it could make further reasonable adjustments in anticipation of use by a disabled student or graduate. This proactive rather than reactive approach makes a service more inclusive and efficient, and could encourage more disabled students into the service.

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I started preparing for my audit by doing a bit of research. Firstly, I spoke to the careers team I work with, and also the University’s learning support team, to find out if anything similar had been done historically. It hadn’t. Lots had been done around supporting disabled students and graduates, but it had never really been drawn together and documented. Therefore it emerged that as well as highlighting what we needed to do to more of to support our disabled students and graduates, the audit presented a good opportunity to celebrate what we were already doing!

Next, I asked Disability Task Group colleagues if they had audited their careers service. I used a template disability audit document offered by a colleague from the University of Sheffield Careers Service, and tailored it for my organisation. After several years of using the template, my colleague now keeps an ongoing dialogue open with disability services at her institution, but I decided to go with the template for my first audit.

The broad headings recommended by the template were:

  • Access to the service: covering the statement of service, physical environment, publicity material, signage, adjustments e.g. hearing loop, work with other departments e.g. disability service, staff training, student feedback and monitoring
  • Information: covering alternative formats, disability relevant information in careers service materials, inclusive materials, disability friendly employer information, knowledge of appropriate support agencies
  • Student appointments: covering flexibility of appointment time, format and venue, knowledge of, and access to, interpreting services
  • Careers events: covering accessibility of premises, materials in accessible formats with information relevant to disabled people (attendees and exhibitors)

Carrying out the audit

Bringing together relevant people from your service, ideally the disability service and having student representation, will allow you to cover all areas being audited. I worked with a careers adviser, information officer, and employability manager to complete my audit, and asked a member of the student Disability Society to provide some feedback. The audit raised healthy and honest discussion, and as I had anticipated, provided the opportunity for people to say “Yes! We’re doing that!” and for it to be recorded. We also identified several actions we needed to complete – many of which would simply require the asking of a question. For example, we knew that a sign language interpreter could be organised, but none of us knew the process for doing so. Finding this out will allow us to provide a much more confident and efficient service should the request be made. Agreeing actions and timescales for completion is essential, as is setting a date to review progress. I aim to introduce the audit follow up to the team meeting agenda with a review of progress at the end of May.

Improving services for all students

Working with the adage ‘improving services for one group of students improves services for all students’, this was a worthwhile and holistic activity. It need not take a huge amount of time, and does not necessarily lead to a lot more work. What it does, is remind you what you are doing well as a service, and highlight how you can provide an even better service to your disabled students and graduates.

If you would like more advice on conducting a disability audit of your service, then get in touch with the AGCAS Disability Task Group.

Clare Worrall-Hill, AGCAS Disability Task Group, Careers Adviser, Liverpool Hope University


Supporting disabled students’ transitions from Higher Education into employment: What works?

In November 2014 the Equality Challenge Unit published a report on helping disabled students during that all important transition between H.E. and employment. The report ‘Supporting disabled students’ transitions from Higher Education into employment: What works?’ follows an investigation into the provision of support focused on disabled students across H.E. Institutions. This research was gathered from a range of sources including university careers services, disability organisations, and of course disabled students. The outcome is an interesting and valuable report which proactive careers services looking to improve their provision for disabled students could really extremely useful.

The report initially taps into what careers services should hopefully always aim to be well versed, in such as employers’ duty to make reasonable adjustments, or the availability of funding for workplace support, along with links to a range of useful resources. Building on this however it contains real value in sharing ideas and good practices that careers services across the UK have employed successfully. These could be used ideas and inspiration for all able services. For example, in the section on Providing accessible information, advice and guidance to disabled students and graduates there are descriptions of a great range of initiatives which include,

  • Brunel University – along with providing leaflets and documents on important issues for the students on the likes of disclosure, the Placement and Careers Service have written a ‘Good practice guide for employers on providing work placements to disabled students’. Useful to assist employers interested in their students becoming diversity focused.
  • Staffordshire University – the Careers Centre run a series of talks designed for disabled students which has been put together following consultation with the university’s Student Enabling Centre and the Disabled Students’ Engagement Group, who decided which talks would be of most use. A programme created in collaboration with those who will use it.

These, and many more noted initiatives can be very useful in arming students with information and opportunities to meet diversity positive employers, however the report has some information on other initiatives aimed at assisting with the transition into H.E. in the first place. E.g.

  • Manchester Met have developed a peer-mentoring service, where new students prior to starting their course are offered a peer mentor; a disabled student already attending the institution. This aims to reduce student drop for new students out during the transition into H.E., along with helping present students use and develop employability schemes through being a mentor.

There are of course limitations with this report’s ideas. What it does do is contain a lot of information, inspirational ideas and initiatives, which along with summarised overall recommendations could really make a difference to assisting the transition between H.E. and employment. What it does not take into account is that institutions and services are constrained with resources, funding, institutional politics which can really limit what they can realistically aspire to achieve.

Having said that the report gives some useful information and insight into existing good practice on within H.E. careers services and, for those services who are willing and able, can be used as a handbook of strategies and ideas to really add to provision for disabled students, and hopefully with their transition from H.E. to the workplace.

You can download this report at the following link.

Mark Allen, AGCAS Disability Task Group, Imperial College London


Ways of working with Disability Support Services in your own university

Sitting at my desk a few weeks ago, I was approached by one of my university’s Learning Support Team. As she knew of my interest in disability support, she asked if I would like to contribute to an event her team was planning to mark the International Day of People with Disability on December 3rd.

This was an opportunity to grasp with both hands, so I did, and will be offering careers focused information and advice on the day along with a screening of the AGCAS Get that Job resource. Opportunities like this need to be nurtured, but it can be hard if your departments are strategically, operationally or physically separated.

At my institution, Liverpool Hope University, Careers, Learning Support and Health and Wellbeing are all part of the same department, and share the same space, so collaboration like this can take place quite easily. But what can you do to encourage partnership for the benefit of your students if you have not worked with these teams before, or would like to work together more frequently or effectively? Here are some ‘top tips’ to help you on your way!

  • Create and nurture relationships. Keep your communication channels and referral routes open and clear. Sometimes just talking to each other can lead to opportunities to collaborate – like my example for the December event. There might be a person in the disability team who has an interest in careers, just as you might have an interest in disability as a careers adviser. If you find that person – nurture that relationship!
  • Develop knowledge of what the team does, how they work; and tell them what you do and how you work. Can you visit each other’s team meeting, or arrange some reciprocal training?
  • Dovetail with existing initiatives and keep each other up to date on what you are planning. Can you publicise each other’s events through your contact lists; could anything you are doing already with students act as a platform for the other team to promote and deliver their services? For example, the Careers Centre at Staffordshire University linked up with the team of Disabled Student Peer Mentors to ensure they knew what was offered by the Careers Centre and could signpost their mentees.
  • Celebrate ability together: look for opportunities to work together on events, or at least inputting into each other’s events. There are plenty of national and international celebration days that could be marked, such as University Mental Health and Wellbeing Day, 18th February, 2015, organised by the University Mental Health Adviser Network (UMHAN). Or could you work together to develop case studies for your own institutions of graduates who have gone onto achieve? Are there any other joint resources you could work on?
  • Use their expertise: can the team advise you on making your careers service more accessible? Look out for our future blog article on conducting a disability audit of your careers service.

Hopefully that has been some inspiration to you for getting started, or building on what you already do, and now it’s over to you!

If you have an example of how you have worked with disability services in your university, please leave a comment explaining what you did. I am sure there are lots of examples of good practice out there already – so let’s get sharing!

Clare Worrall-Hill, AGCAS Disability Task Group, Liverpool Hope University Careers and Employability Service.

Hands signifying collaboration

Collaboration works!


Access to Work – Meeting the cost of workplace adjustments

Access to Work

Access to Work

Disclosing a disability to a potential employer can be daunting enough on its own but having to ask for costly adjustments such as assistive technology, adapted furniture, or support personnel can lead to additional anxiety or concerns for a disabled applicant.

Access to Work is here to help!

What is Access to Work I hear you shout? (Well actually I don’t as I am deaf but if you shout loud enough my ATW funded reporter will hear and pass the question on). So what is it, who gets it, how much can you get, and how do you access it?

What is it?

Access to Work (ATW) is a government scheme that will pay for most adjustments that are required once a person is in paid employment. It covers all paid employment including internships and work placements, full time and part time work, and permanent or temporary roles. It will even cover the cost of communication support at interview but it is worth noting that this is the only cost they will meet at interview stage.

There are a number of ways in which ATW can help. Examples include:

  • Paying for a support worker. Types of support might include reading to a visually impaired person, communication support for a hearing impaired person via a Sign Language interpreter, Speech to Text Reporter, Lipspeaker or Electronic Notetaker
  • Providing specialist coaching for a person with learning difficulties or helping a person with care needs
  • Special aids equipment to help a disabled person perform their role in the work place;
  • Adaptation to premises or to existing equipment
  • Help with the additional costs of travel to, or in, work for people who are unable to use public transport

Who gets it?

Access To Work is available for any disabled worker who meets the following criteria:

  • Has a disability or health condition that has a long term substantial adverse effect on their ability to carry out their job
  • Is over 16 years old
  • Is in, or about to start, paid employment (including self-employment)
  • Normally lives and works in Great Britain, and
  • Is not claiming Incapacity Benefit or Employment Support Allowance once they are in work.

As said this covers any type of paid employment regardless of length of contract, however, it does not cover people undertaking voluntary work or unpaid placements.

How much can you get and how do you get it?

It is important to submit an application for ATW support as soon as you have accepted a job offer as it can take some time for the adjustments to be sourced and implemented in the work place. The time in which you make a claim can also affect the amount of funding given.

ATW will pay up to 100% of costs for adjustments when the claim is made within the first 6 weeks of Employment and, additionally, will consider paying 100% of costs for the following support regardless of when the claim is made:

  • Additional costs of travel to work for people who are unable to use public transport;
  • Support worker or reader to assist in the workplace;
  • Communicator for support at job interviews.
  • The Mental Health Support Service

Additionally it will consider paying up to 100% of costs for self-employed people.

The level of grant will depend on whether the person is employed or self-employed, how long the claimant has been in their job, and the type of help required.

For those who have been in work more than six weeks and require support other than that listed above the employer may be asked to contribute up to 20% of the cost depending on the size of organisation.

The application process is relatively straightforward. The disabled employee makes the application by contacting the Customer Service Team on 0345 268 8489.   The team will take basic information and pass to an ATW Adviser. It is a telephone based service but alternative arrangements can be made if appropriate and required.

The ATW Adviser will contact the customer within 7 days to progress the application and discuss the support that may be needed in the work environment. Once support is agreed the customer will sign a Customer Declaration Form.

The Customer Service Team can be contacted on:

Telephone: 0345 268 8489

Textphone: 0845 608 8753

Email:  atwosu.london@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

Viki Chinn, AGCAS Disability Task Group, LSE Careers.