Effective employment support in Brighton

Year of Publication: 

The Learning and Work Institute was commissioned by Brighton & Hove’s Equalities and Inclusion Partnership (EquIP) to conduct research into the barriers to employment, volunteering and skills development for disabled people and individuals with long term health conditions in Brighton & Hove, and to provide recommendations on how the council and their partners can remove such barriers, so that disabled people in Brighton & Hove are able to compete effectively for jobs and maintain employment and/or volunteering opportunities. 


The report's key findings are:

Experiences of employment support

  • Disabled people and those with long term health conditions who were out of work reported that they wanted to work and desired more support to be able to do this. In particular, those further from work wanted more intensive and personalised employment support – including help to prepare for work, look for work and to apply for jobs.

  • Disabled people’s experiences of support often reflected the quality of their relationship with the adviser or staff who supported them. This reinforces findings from other research that positive adviser / participant working relationships, which facilitate the delivery of personalised support, are key to an effective intervention.

  • Negative experiences of support tended to relate to instances where it was felt that staff understanding of the impact of specific conditions or impairments was limited. This highlights the importance of well-trained staff with appropriate levels of skills and experience. 

  • Timing and sequencing of support is also key; interventions need to happen at the right time, and holistic support needs to be able to help individuals to overcome the range of barriers that they may face. This highlights the importance of effective referral routes into services.

Provision of support in Brighton & Hove

  • There is a range of provision available in Brighton & Hove, but a lack of awareness of such provision amongst employees and local residents.

  • Amongst partners delivering services, there was a strong desire for more to be done to share information about services, support and different conditions, and to better co-ordinate activity, in order to reduce the likelihood of overlap between services and to facilitate information sharing.

  • The support provided by the Council’s Supported Employment Team, which operates using a model of Supported Employment (or a ‘place, train, maintain’ model – see p.16) was valued highly by those who had used it – both employers and individuals. It was felt to provide an effective bridge to employers for unemployed disabled people; had knowledgeable staff who were able to support employers when issues or concerns arose; and provided in-work support to ensure that opportunities could be sustained. However long waiting lists for receiving support from this service were a key challenge.

  • Support for young people with mental health conditions was felt to be a key gap in the provision of support locally.

  • Concerns were raised by participants about the ‘parking’ of individuals in unsuitable support, or in voluntary roles, without efforts to progress them into sustained employment. This points to a need for improved signposting and referral processes, to ensure that individuals are able to access support that is right for them. Having appropriate referral routes from disability specialist services into employment, health and welfare services is also crucial to ensure that support is received at the right time.

Experiences of employment

  • Experiences of all stakeholders suggested that the quality of the ‘job match’ is key for individuals to sustain, enjoy and progress in work. This reinforces a key finding from previous research.

  • Reflecting this, employers were focused on ensuring that they appointed staff with the right skills and aptitudes for the role in question, rather than having a desire to appoint (or not to appoint) disabled people per se. However, someemployer interviews suggested that they held misconceptions about disabled people and individuals with health conditions, including the automatic assumption that disabled employees would have a physical impairment and therefore be unsuitable for certain roles. There was also a perception amongst disabled people that they did face discrimination from employers.

  • Although many employers had flexible working policies, or were willing for staff to work flexibly if this was suitable for the role in question, they did not always convey this on job adverts. This reflects the findings of previous research that only a small proportion of jobs are openly advertised as being open to flexible working. This could act as a deterrent to disabled people applying for vacancies.

  • Employers tended to see it as the applicant’s responsibility to request reasonable adjustments at the interview stage if required and employees reported variable experiences of this – some requests were accommodated while others were not. These experiences at interview stage shaped individual’s perceptions of the employer and the suitability of the job.

  • Despite SMEs having fewer resources for supporting employees with disabilities, several stakeholders reported positive experiences of employment in SMEs, which related to job satisfaction and the provision of personalised support and adaptations in the workplace.

  • It was common for individuals with disabilities or health conditions not to disclose this to employers or to support providers. This makes it critical to develop a culture of openness in businesses so that employees are able to disclose their conditions with confidence in order to be provided with appropriate support.

Support for employers

  • Employers were using various types of support to help them with the recruitment or retention of disabled employees, including the council’s Supported Employment Team, Occupational Health support, employee assistance schemes and ad-hoc HR support. Unsurprisingly, larger organisations tended to have a greater amount of support at their disposal, whilst SMEs were often unaware of options such as Access to Work and had less resource to devote to recruitment and to Equality and Diversity policies.

  • When employers did receive appropriate support, this was often key to their decision and ability to hire a disabled person.

  • However, there was a lack of awareness of wider local and national support services amongst employers and employees. This included knowledge of local provision, as well as national schemes such as Access to Work and the Fit for Work service.

  • It was felt by stakeholders that the Disability Confident campaign did not yet have the level of awareness among employers and employees that its forerunner (the Two Ticks scheme1) had achieved, and in particular that it had not yet successfully engaged with SMEs and micro businesses.