My Name is Tommy Cairns, I am a 35 year old graduate with honours in both social work and Psychology. I have a keen interest in supporting, empowering and enabling people with disabilities to reach their full potential in all aspects of their lives.
I have a particular interest when it comes to disability and employment, as I myself am a disabled man who is trying to secure and maintain employment which has proved to be very difficult for me. My search for work led me to volunteer with Disability Action, as a Peer Employment Advocate within their Employment Advocacy Service.
Employment Advocacy Service
The Employment Advocacy Service is the first service of its kind in Northern Ireland. It is delivered for disabled people by disabled people to support those who are seeking, entering or are currently in employment.
The Employment Advocacy Service is important as it helps disabled people remove barriers to employment and dispel myths surrounding employment. It does this through the delivery of support and impartial advice such as how to remove physical barriers to employment and how to overcome societal and attitudinal obstacles.
The service offers practical advice on issues of recruitment & selection, sickness & absence, reasonable adjustments and provides positive actions for the employee with a disability as well as the employer.
Hard at Work
The Employment Advocacy Service so far has been greatly received across Northern Ireland as is demonstrated by the success of our recent “Hard at Work” paper. The report which was launched by the Department for Communities Minister Paul Givan was not only a great success for the team but also a milestone in the life of the service.
The report highlights the key actions needed to increase equality in employment for disabled people in Northern Ireland, outlines the views of people who have used the service and how the service helped them with their employment concerns. It also gives the service a voice and shows that it is working and more importantly that it needs to be supported and funded appropriately so that we as a team can meet the rapidly growing demand for the service.
So what does the future hold?
As a member of the team I have developed an information resource which is specific to issues around reasonable adjustments in the workplace. I am currently working on best practice guidance on recruitment and selection with guides for both employers and employees which the team hope to release soon.
With ongoing challenges faced by disabled people throughout NI I foresee the need for the service will only become greater. We need to promote the Employment Advocacy Service widely across Northern Ireland so that we as a team can help to support, empower and enable people with disabilities to make the right choices when finding work.
Telephone: 028 9029 7880
Textphone: 028 9029 7882
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