I graduated in July 2008, as a BSc computer graduate. During graduation week it dawned on me about the sheer number of graduates that qualify and the battle I would face to get a new job. It was particularly difficult for me because I could not join any graduate schemes from the blue-chip companies due to not achieving a qualifying grade. I will never know if this was that down to my circumstances during university or my dyslexia.

It was very clear to me that the job market within the computer field was going to explode and the market was not brilliant before 2003. (http://www.computerweekly.com/feature/IT-job-market-in-recession).

During the Bsc Computer course, the topic of social divide stuck in my mind, therefore, I decided to get a job within the education sector. I struggled to get there from July 2008 – Dec 2008. In July I decided to volunteer within LCIL ( Leicester Centre of Integrated Living). It would most likely get me a foot in the door. Whilst volunteering I was looking for jobs in retail but I not successful. I tried looking for jobs abroad because I felt economic markets were more economically stable (African, and Indian, whilst the European, G8 Markets were in recession). In November I was contacted by a Headteacher from a school in Tanzania to go and do some voluntary work. In January 2009 I went to Tanzania to teach within the school. In April my work visa expired and the immigration office hassled me and refused renewal of my visa.

In May 2009 I was really fed up and still determined to get a job that I would be happy in. I decided to take a new approach to my job search. One of the first things I did was to signup up to job agencies and secondly contact a dyslexia specialist, and DMU Careers. I created a excel sheet to make a log of how many applications I was doing.

I went to the various job agencies and explained I wanted a job. I went to one particular agency which really impressed me by the number of job advertisements, plus the company had a great reputation. I went through the registration process which was an informal discussion about job goals etc. and then they tested me on my typing skills and speed. Before taking the test I informed them that I had Dyslexia. I took the test and they told me that I was too slow and could not get a job with them and be able to register.

I was not aware that as a graduate I could use the careers service as a lifeline. I was told by a teacher in Chichester that I could use my previous university facilities. After meeting the careers service they pointed out some mistakes I was making in my job applications.

I learnt how to use the personal specification properly, not mentioning my dyslexia in my application forms.

At the job centre, I felt jobseekers are just seen as “ no one.” Staff members just see the person as a number. Some staff just sign off documents not giving individual attention to people with or without a disability, putting jobseekers on programmes so they achieve the target’s set by governments.

I was put on three programmes, one was by Apex. The support I needed by Apex was not given to me. All I needed was for someone to read my applications before sending them off to employers to ensure there were no spelling or grammatical errors. The staff member could not comprehend why I was still unemployed. One or two staff members came to me for informal advice on asking how to help their clients with the application forms. Remploy was determined to put me in a retail job. I requested on numerous occasions that I didn’t want to work in the Retail sector and I was put on a course which taught me about the basic skills needed for retail. The information was not relevant to me especially since I had previously helped my dad in his business for many years (since 1997.)

The dyslexia specialist arranged for me to volunteer again within South Leicestershire College. I was promised that I would get a job afterwards. I started volunteering within SC in autumn 2009. By December 2009 I had done nearly 180 applications only getting 4 interviews and getting no jobs.

In 2010 I still continued my search for a job whilst volunteering nearly 35 hour in South SLC. I questioned my Line Manager concerning the promised job. As I had no proof that I was going to get employed by them I just let it go. In autumn 2010 I managed to get a 24-hour job in Middlesex in Software Company specialising in software for dyslexia. It because very unfeasible and monotonous. I would travel to Middlesex during the week then stay over and come back for the rest of week. I had no other choice but to do this because the rental of accommodation would have been out of reach. This was my first official job in over 2 years. In May 2011 I had enough and so as my contract ended I left. I then managed to find a temporary librarian job in Leicester. When the library contract finished I went to work for Action in Children in Leamington Spa working as in data analysis. I really struggled with writing the reports, but I managed to analyse the data correctly. In November 2010 I was back on the job market because the contract finished. I managed to find a job in Liberty Food as a Stock controller but my heart and mind were not in the job. The work atmosphere was very cold. Whilst working I continued making applications. In May/June 2012 my contract ended and I went back to applying for a job where I would be happy and getting a decent wage.

Using the skills I gained from DMU careers and workshops I had attended for the previous 4 years I put my heart and soul into finding a job. It was motivation that got me started, habit is what kept me going.

It was difficult to see the progress of peers and family members who were either younger than me in stable jobs or not relying on the welfare state.

Over the years the Jobcentre has caused me additional stress for example when I moved from Leamington spa to Leicester they lost my paperwork, therefore, my claimant was delayed by nearly 3 weeks. It took hours trying to speak to the right person over the phone to assist me. In July 2012 I got sanctioned for missing a signing date. I managed to write a letter of apology to them explaining the missed date and they unsanctioned me.

On the other hand, the jobcentre have helped me with my job search. For example, travelling to interviews, they allowed me to claim expenses when my interview was outside Leicestershire. The DEA, Disability Employment Advisor allowed me to explain to them my difficulty in getting a job and they also advised me on relevant jobs which were on the market. I became more and more determined to end my sentence on the welfare state. I worked closely with my DEA to get somewhere in my life.

My DEA Vicki Barnes, Informed me that there was scheme called “Right to Control” which was designed to give disabled people more choice and control over the support they receive. LCIL were looking in recruiting Support Brokers as part of RtC. I read about the scheme and was impressed by how the scheme would potentially help disabled people with their lives. I contacted Vicki, and explained to her I was interested in joining the scheme. Vicki and I went to see the head of RTC, Liz, in December 2012 where I found out I had got the job. By that time I had made 307 applications and attended more than 20 job interviews.

The feedback I got from the interview was positive:

  • Didn’t articulate clearly on a particular answer
  • Another candidate had more experience than me

I started in January working with Liz on understanding the concept of RtC. I assisted her on completing the support plans for various clients. I was conscious that as part of my Support Plan I was going to get receive a qualification as an accredited Support Broker. Time flew by, hours became days, days became weeks, weeks became months. I asked Liz about what was happening in relation to the qualification. She said she was waiting to hear back from the Jobcentre and Steve Cooper ( Ceo of LCIL) to find some more support brokers. Eventually, DEAs found an additional job seeker who wanted to be an accredited Support Broker. By the end of February we were told the start date of the 3-day course which would begin in March. Myself and Liz sat down together and looked at the Support Broker accreditation website together.

On 12th March the course began and Steve my Support Broker explained the course modules. I was not happy with the speed of the course. I found the course very boring and the information received was not relevant to me as I was already in the role. For example I wanted to know more about the Access to Work, Work Choice Adult Social Care Services Disabled Facilities Grant, and Housing Related Support Independent Living Fund. And how they were interlinked.

By the End of March I was really annoyed not knowing where I stood because I was still on benefits, there was no sign of any letter that the support plan had agreed too. I didn’t receive any letter from Leicester city council until the end of June. I was out of pocket due to spending money on transportation to come and volunteer and not getting any reimbursements.

They’re very many occasions when I considered backing out of RtC and quitting volunteering at LCIL because I felt that I was undervalued and it was pointless continuing volunteering. I was thinking that from previous experience SLC who had never recruited me and that LCIL would do the same. Family member and friends said to me to just leave them. I was fed up at trying to prove that I wasn’t a failure by forcing myself to keep quiet. At the same time I was thinking that if I didn’t volunteer within LCil it would cause a gap and therefore I would be less employable in the future. In May I found out that I was eligible for claiming back travel expenses.

By end of June I had finished both of my assignments and I didn’t receive any feedback from Steve Scott and his Team. At the same time as continuing job hunting and seeing my DEA who was supporting me by trying to find out what had happened to my course. I was so annoyed at the whole system I really wished I had invested the £5,900 in another scheme, maybe doing a Masters in Muslim Civilisation. I had contacted Steve Scott and the team on numerous occasions. I wanted feedback on my assignments but I still haven’t got anything till this day.

In July I was still not progressing in the position like many others out there, remaining unemployed and still in the same position as July 2008.

After coming back from Tanzania I spoke to the head of School in Tanzania for opportunities in the near future just in case LCIL don’t stick with their word. I volunteered for another 2 months until I was officially given a job at LCIL in October. From January – Oct I did over 100 applications in various companies and received various interviews.

Yes, I am happy that LCIL offered me a job, but I believe I only got recruited because of my perseverance and effort. Would another disabled person have been able to go through all of this?

My RtC has not helped may people into employment according to my research and it is coming close to becoming too expensive to run. But on the positive side it has made DLO ,Local council,DWP understand the complexity of issues surrounding disability unemployment.

Another aspect of employing a person with a disability is the usability aspect of the website within the career section. Some online applications are so confusing to use. Another agonising thing is when a website completely goes away e.g. http://www.schoolrecruitmentagency.com which provided a portal for jobs in the education sector but at this website funded by the government, they decided to remove it. Now jobs within the education sector are split into 4 different main websites.

In conclusion, more needs to done to support disabled back into employment. Employers need to be educated about having a disabled person and the statistical impact when one in ten are dyslexic.

As mentioned in October 2013 Chris finally employed me at Leicester centre of Intergrated Living, unfortunately, I was made redundant again in December 2014. It was a great blow to me as I felt this job as an administrator, assisting in inspiring and empowering disabled people was a part of me. In April 2015 I was recruited on a short term basis as activities coordinator for a charity supporting people with visual impairments. In September 2015 I joined the Electronic rostering team for a6-month fixed contract.

Then from that point on I struggled to get back into employment. I attended interviews one after the other without no success. Eventually due to my perseverance in September 2016 I started my role as administrator for Leicester Immunisation services part of National health services. This is where I applied for access to work.