Talking about tomorrow


Top tips – getting a job

Look for ways to build your young person’s confidence and experience. Start small and build up gradually.

Contact companies or organisations directly and ask if your young person can visit or shadow someone.

Have ideas for how to manage difficulties in the workplace.

Be prepared to go with them or provide support with transport.

Prepare your young person as much as you can. The biggest challenges might be things like what to do during breaks, or how to let someone know if they need help.

Read more about: Top tips – getting a job

Getting a Job

Some people find it hard to imagine their young person finding, or keeping, a job. You might feel this even more when other people assume a disabled young adult won’t have many options, if there isn’t much support where you live, or if you don’t know any disabled people who are working.

Doing something meaningful

If a job seems unrealistic right now, find activities and occupations that give structure and meaning to your young person’s week. Building social and organisational skills, connecting to the community and developing confidence are all a good use of time no matter what, and may open other doors later on.

Getting started

It’s hard to imagine what work you’d like when you don’t have any experience. Some schools can be helpful in arranging work placements but others are less good at finding the right opportunities.

Try asking people you know if your young person could help out or shadow them at work for a few hours. If they would struggle to do that on their own, go with them or ask someone else to help. Even half an hour can be worth it to begin with, if it gives them experience of getting there and being in an unfamiliar environment

Vocational courses are a good way to experience life in the workplace. Click here for more information on learning by doing.

Don’t be afraid to email or pick up the phone and ask if someone could let your young person visit the workplace or try something out. The worst they can say is no! You should be honest about the impact of someone’s disability, and maybe have a few suggestions of your own for how to tackle possible challenges.


Volunteering can be a good way of learning new skills and seeing how other people work, and again you can start with as little as half an hour and build up gradually.

Often the best way to find volunteering opportunities is simply to ask an organisation directly. You could also check local websites or noticeboards. Be clear about what your young person can offer, as well as how they’ll benefit from the chance to be involved. If they will need support, work out in advance how that can be provided and what part you might need to play.

Volunteer Scotland can give you lots of information and tips. 

My World of Work

Skills Development Scotland is the national agency for careers advice and planning, offering information, advice and guidance in school and in careers centres throughout the country.

Click here to find your local careers centre. Many have designated staff for people with additional support needs.

The website My World of Work lets people research jobs and do a quiz to get ideas of possible career paths – though as it doesn’t take additional support needs into account you might find some suggestions aren’t appropriate. Click here to go to the ‘About Me’ quiz.

Paving the way

Many projects support disabled people to develop skills they need to find work – your nearest Job Centre or Skills Development Scotland office can tell you about ones near you.

Find out about the help employers can get with making adjustments for someone with a disability. They may not know, and it could make the difference if they’d like to employ a disabled person but aren’t sure how to go about it.

The Scottish Government has committed to tackling the disability employment gap in their Fairer Scotland for Disabled People plan.


Read more about: Getting a Job

Paid work and benefits

Impact on benefits

This can be complicated, and you should always speak to a benefits adviser about the impact a choice may have before making a decision. Click here to find out more about getting your finances checked.

Permitted work for people who receive Employment and Support Allowance

People on Employment and Support Allowance can do part time work and still claim, as long as they work less than 16 hours a week and don’t earn more than £125.50 a week. You need to let the Job Centre know if you are starting work and complete a form.

This is useful for people who have been out of work for a while, who haven’t worked before, or who may never move into full time employment.

If someone is in supported permitted work, i.e. it’s part of a treatment programme or is supervised by someone from a local council or voluntary organisation, there may be no limit to the hours they can work.


Read more about: Paid work and benefits

Equality legislation and rights

The Equality Act

The Equality Act protects disabled people from discrimination at work, in education, when accessing public and private services, goods and facilities, and when renting or buying a home.

Employers, education providers and providers of services, goods and facilities must ensure disabled people are not at a significant disadvantage compared to non-disabled people.

This also applies to volunteering, work experience or unpaid internships.

At work, employers must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to support a disabled person to carry out their job, and must not treat them less favourably than non-disabled people, whether intentionally or not. In practice, this could mean providing flexible working hours, allowing extra time off for medical appointments, or allowing someone to work from home.

The Equality & Human Rights Commission enforce the Equality Act. They have information, advice, resources and guides on their website. Anyone can contact them if they think someone isn’t upholding their duties under the Act.

Disclosing a disability or health condition

No one has to tell an employer they have a disability unless there’s a specific health and safety concern, for example operating hazardous machinery. Many people worry that an employer won’t offer them a job if they say they are disabled.

The difficulty is that unless someone is open, they can’t ask for support or adjustments in the workplace, and this may make it harder for them to do the job effectively. An employer can’t be held responsible if they didn’t know the employee was disabled.

Openness is a personal decision and it’s illegal for employers to ask about health, disability and previous illness in application forms unless it is essential to ensure a role can be carried out safely.

Equal Opportunities Forms

These may be included in a job application pack, and ask if someone is disabled. This is legal as the form is completely optional and anonymous, and people appointing staff won’t see the answers.


If someone needs an adjustment to attend an interview – for example a sign language interpreter or a wheelchair accessible room – they must let the employer know in advance so they can make preparations. An employer should not ask about any impairment during the interview, even if it’s apparent. It is up to the interviewee if they want to discuss it or disclose any further details at this point.

After a job offer

Once someone has been offered a job, they could contact their new employer to let them know they are disabled, and discuss support and adjustments. It’s OK to involve a job/work coach or advocate if that is helpful. An employer does not have to meet all requests, but they can only reject them if the requests aren’t ‘reasonable’. Lead Scotland’s guide to the Equality Act  gives more information about what can be considered ‘reasonable’.


Read more about: Equality legislation and rights

Support into work

Finding information

Organisations may not mention anything about disability in their information or on their websites, but it doesn’t mean they can’t help.

Programmes are often funded to help people who are at a disadvantage – including because of a disability – so it’s worth contacting them to ask what they can offer.

Some Job Centres have Disability Employment Advisers, and hold a list of local supported employment services.

You can search for employment services on your council’s website, or phone them and ask what programmes there are for young people who face barriers getting into work. Some local authorities have a Youth Employment Action Plan (YEAP) online that identifies sources of employability support.

Skills Development Scotland has details of local programmes and services to support young disabled people into work. You can make an appointment at one of their local careers centres. Click here to search for your nearest centre.

The Scottish Union for Supported Employment (SUSE) has a list of services and their website has sections both for employers and for disabled people. Click here for further information.

Many charities also offer programmes that help people prepare for work and support them into jobs, for example Inclusion Scotland and Employability Scotland.

Supported employment services

Supported employment services can help with training, volunteering, work placements, job search and interview skills, finding suitable vacancies, health and wellbeing support, welfare and benefits advice and in work support once someone has found a job. They can also advise employers on reasonable adjustments and developing accessible and inclusive workplaces and practices.

Supported employment services are provided by charitable organisations such as Enable, the Scottish Association for Mental Health or RNIB Scotland; local authorities, e.g. West Lothian Council’s Access 2 Employment service; or government programmes such as Fair Start Scotland.

They are free and people don’t usually need to be referred by a professional. They may offer a training allowance or have an arrangement to ensure people don’t lose social security benefits while taking part.

You can contact Fair Start Scotland by phone or use their web form to find out more about organisations working in your area. 

Supported businesses

In these businesses at least 30% of employees must be disabled, and their aim is the ‘social and professional integration of disabled people’.

They can be particularly effective where people need a support worker to keep them on task and develop their confidence and skills. Supported businesses are an alternative to daycare activity centres – they offer work that contributes towards the economy, reduces reliance on benefits and provides a sense of value and self worth. Disabled employees are also supported into mainstream employment where possible.

There are businesses throughout Scotland, ranging from furniture, textiles and laundry services to packing and fulfilment, office support services and IT recycling. A number of ‘protected places’ are reserved for disabled people, and many businesses work with a supported employment service to help disabled people access them. Click here for a directory of supported businesses in Scotland and contact the business directly to find out about their training and recruitment opportunities.

Social enterprises

These are independent businesses with a social or environmental mission, and all their profits go back into progressing that mission.

Many social enterprises provide training and jobs for people who face barriers to employment, including disabled people.

Social Enterprise Scotland has a search facility of members on their website. Contact a social enterprise directly to find out about current opportunities.

Inclusive Employers

Inclusive Employers is a membership organisation of mainstream employers committed to developing inclusive policies and practices. Click here for a list of Inclusive Employers members throughout the UK.

Disability Confident Employers

The Department for Work and Pensions runs Disability Confident, a body of employers who have signed up to commitments to increase the recruitment and retention of disabled people. There are over 6000 Disability Confident employers in the UK. You can read more about the scheme on the Disability Confident website.  

The Disability Confident logo on vacancies means the employer welcomes and encourages applications from disabled people and has committed to making sure their policies and practices are inclusive and accessible.  The website also has a list of employers who have signed up.

Project Search

This is an unpaid one year transition training programme that supports young people with learning disabilities and/or autism into paid sustainable employment. It includes on the job training and support from a job coach. The programme is delivered by three partners – a host employer (often a public sector body like the NHS or the council), a training provider (usually a college) and a supported employment service.

Participants develop work skills for mainstream employment and are supported to apply for jobs once the programme ends. It has excellent success rates, with a high percentage of Project Search trainees finding paid employment. 

Project Search is available in 10 areas throughout Scotland and recruitment is by interview. Google Project Search programmes in Scotland or check your local area by googling ‘Youth Employment Activity Plan’ and your council’s name.

Self employment

For some disabled people, self employment can be a good choice as it lets them work in a way and to a timetable that suits them. Job Centres, Business Gateway and other organisations can provide support in setting up a business, but many people may need ongoing help with managing business administration including tax and accounting.

The organisation iwork4me provides free self-employment business coaching for people on the autistic spectrum across Scotland.

Read more about: Support into work