Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: 'Why ignorance about my condition stops me from getting a job'

A young woman from Wolverhampton who has applied for around 100 jobs with no success is calling for more support for disabled people who want to work.

Chloe Lambert, 22, has FASD or foetal alcohol spectrum disorder caused by exposure to alcohol in the womb and says without attitudes changing amongst employers she fears she will never get paid employment.

Explaining how the condition affects her Chloe said: "It's a struggle with day to day tasks and how people expect me to do things that I can't do. They can't see what's going on in my brain. And some people think there's nothing wrong with me because they can't physically see it."

One of the things Chloe finds frustrating is the lack of understanding and knowledge about FASD.

"I get reactions like: 'Are you pregnant?' 'Are you the alcoholic person?' And because people don't understand the condition it's hard for them to understand how I work and for them to know how to help me."

What is FASD? (Source: National Organisation of FASD)

  • It results when prenatal alcohol exposure affects the developing brain and body.

  • It's a spectrum and people are affected differently.

  • Around 10 brain functions can be affected resulting in problems with motor skills, memory, atention, social skills, planning and decision making.

  • It is associated with 400 other conditions including problems with hearing, vision and the heart.

  • Less than 10% of those affected have distinctive facial features including a smooth connection between the nose and upper lip, a thin upper lip and small eyes.

Over the years Chloe has had some support but she says it's not been consistent.

"You have to explain yourself all the time. And I think if you had ADHD for example, you might get listened to more because it's more well known.

"I think there should be that same consistent person, whoever you're dealing with, whether that be the Job Centre, Social Services or whoever. It needs to be the same person because otherwise you're having to explain yourself over and over."

Chloe is keen to work but often gets rejected immediately because she does not yet have her maths GCSE. Her dream would be to work as a play specialist in a hospital with children and young people before they have surgery.

"I have applied for over 100 jobs and I've had about three or four interviews. And once you get to the interview and you say: 'Oh, you can't do this, I need to have that' I think it's off putting for them because they don't know how to support you because that training is not in place.

"We don't want to be left sitting at home doing nothing. We want to be part of society.

"My message to employers would be stop focusing on what I can't do because that does not help anybody at all and focus on what I can do and the skills I do have that I can offer to your business or company.

"But I do think sometimes: 'Am I meant for the workplace?'

Asked about her views about alcohol in pregnancy Chloe said; "I would say it's just not worth it. Even the tiniest little bit isn't worth it. I don't want other people to go through what I have or how it's affected me."

Chloe enjoys being an advocate for others with FASD and says her proudest day was when she went to Westminster a year ago to speak to the then disability minister. She talked about how the condition affects her and about how she'd like to see an on-the-job training scheme for disabled people.

She'd love to repeat that visit once the next government is in place.

Chloe hopes to arrange another visit to Westminster after the General Election Credit: Chloe Lambert

Brian Roberts, Director of Education and Wellbeing at the National Organisation for FASD said: "It’s a sad and poor reflection on how society responds to vulnerable members of our communities. Especially when its reflecting the responses of organisations that are meant to support those with additional needs and who should be aware of hidden disabilities like FASD.

"I’d love to say that it (Chloe's situation) was rare, but sadly it’s not and could reflect the experiences of my own children and the hundreds that the National Organisation for FASD supports.

"People with FASD don’t always have control over what they do or say. This means that they can need additional support and understanding as well as reasonable adjustments. Without a clear understanding of what these individual needs are they can appear to be making the same mistakes time and time again, impulsivity can make they seem rude and uncaring, but this is because those of us who aren’t affected often have unrealistic expectations about what is needed to help them to thrive.

"Society needs to listen to people with FASD and their families because they are the experts and know what their needs are. Last year we created the UK FASD Manifestoharnessing the voices of over 60 people with FASD to do just that. The next government whoever they are must step up and address the FASD needs that the Department for HealthSocial Care identified in 2021.

"Integrated Care Boards need to implement strategies to address the Quality Standards published by the National Institute of Care and Clinical Excellence that include educating about the risk of prenatal alcohol, developing assessment pathways and supporting those who already have FASD."

For advice and support on FASD click here