Shropshire Business woman Ann Johnson Director of Wave-length CIC guest speaker at the Department of Work and Pensions DWP event.
Ann was delighted to provide her own experiences of disability, her reflections on society views and the opportunity to feed in comments of individuals that Wave-length CIC have come into contact with.
Ann said that ‘A trip from Shropshire to the great city always seems like a daunting exercise especially as a wheelchair user and someone who does not use public transport, but this opportunity was too good an opportunity to miss, Wave-length CIC is about campaigning and educating on disability issues in employment. Such a drive for me relies on SatNav and with fog over the capital yesterday I did not connect with my SatNav until 2 miles short of Westminster, but as with the fog clearing over the city it was great to have real input into clearing some of the fog surrounding the support job centre needs to give to improve services for people with disabilities.
I presented for 40 minutes to those tasked with making operational change at Caxton House the offices of the DWP, this was followed by questions mainly on my own experiences and how I felt such reflective learning might change operations at the job centre. I felt my contribution was truly valued and I sensed the need from those attending and discussions with management afterwards of the willingness to provide meaningful change. They listened to my life experiences following my spinal injury in 2002 especially on how I felt I had been treated differently since that day, how often professionals had taken over decisions about my support and how assumptions were and still are made about my capability to do the job.
When asked what might be changed within the operations of the Job Centre, I suggested more personable approaches: staff avoiding being judgemental, the need to respect diversity within disability i.e. not assuming that the support given to one person with a visual impairment would be right for the next. The other big suggestion I proposed was that of language from the Job Centre, perhaps adopting a more supportive role than one that can sometimes appear to be controlling”
The audience at the event were operational staff from across the UK tasked with reviewing surfaces on the ground and to take such learning to the DWP staff Summer Training programme, understanding that to get meaningful change its course important to talk to those affected by it.
As a result of Ann attending the DWP offices yesterday she has now been asked to be part of a soon to be developed UK stakeholder group reviewing national DWP policy, which is likely to include the Minister for Disability Maria Miller MP and Liz Sayce author of the government review ‘Getting in, staying in and getting on’ providing recommendations for disability support fit for the future.
This appointment for Ann will mean that she will start to get more familiar with the route from Shropshire to Westminster.