More help needed on deaf employment, charity says

A man putting in his hearing aid Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption There are about 530,000 people in Wales who are deaf or who have hearing loss

More should be done to help deaf people into work in Wales, a charity has said.

Action on Hearing Loss Cymru said its south east Wales support service is one-of-a-kind with nothing similar elsewhere in Wales.

It said "demand outweighs supply" for its two advisers and the referral process is "problematic".

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said it had a number of relevant "tailored" services and funded others for those who need extra help.

Action on Hearing Loss estimates 4% of the Welsh workforce - about 84,000 people - are deaf or wear hearing aids.

The charity's employment service, which is funded by the DWP, has run for two years and received 29 referrals.

It has now been extended until December.

The charity told the Eye on Wales programme it had been "overwhelmed with demand" and, without it, there would be "no support for deaf people looking for work in Wales".

Richard Williams, director of the charity in Wales, said: "Demand is far outweighing supply and our two advisors are currently only able to support clients in the south east Wales area.

"No support is available throughout the rest of Wales for deaf clients.

"The referral process is also problematic; jobseekers must be referred by their Disability Employment Advisor (DEA) on the first Monday of every month by telephone call, which creates a further barrier for those people looking for work."

Of the 29 people referred so far, six have gone into long-term employment and several more are still on the programme.

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Media captionBuilder Jack Griffiths said his long hunt for a permanent job was "really, really frustrating"

Construction worker Jack Griffiths, 25, of Tredegar, Blaenau Gwent, who was born profoundly deaf, found his confidence "ebbing away" when he struggled to find work.

"Nobody was keener to get into work than me. And when you hear 'no' all the time, constant disappointment - it becomes a hard struggle to keep on applying," he said.

But he managed to get a job at Willis Construction in Cardiff after getting help from the charity.

"I feel better about myself. I am learning," he said. "When you're not working, you're not learning or progressing."

The charity's research suggests people who are deaf or hard of hearing are four times more likely to be unemployed than a hearing person.

"Every month our advisors are approached by deaf people desperate for support in finding employment but did not make it through the referral system and will have to wait another month," Mr Williams said.

Image caption Jack Griffiths, who is profoundly deaf, has worked at Willis Construction for about a year

The DWP said it was "committed to helping disabled people" to find and stay in work.

"As well as tailored help available through the Personal Support Package and Access to Work, our Jobcentre Plus disability employment advisors are working with thousands of people every day to provide the extra support that they need," a spokeswoman said.

"We recognise there will be some people who need even more specialist help. That's exactly why we fund organisations such as Action on Hearing Loss in Wales through the Specialist Employability Support programme and we're currently considering how to extend this support in the future."

The Welsh Government said it was in the process of refreshing its Framework for Action on Independent Living, a programme designed to help remove barriers for people with disabilities, including on employment.

"We are working with the DWP to raise awareness amongst employers and disabled people of the Access to Work scheme, which provides equipment and other support, including communication support, so deaf and disabled people can access the same employment opportunities as everyone else," a spokeswoman added.

For more on this story listen to Eye on Wales, BBC Radio Wales, at 12:30 BST on Sunday 9 July

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