Northern Ireland employment rate for people with disabilities lowest in the UK

Northern Ireland has the lowest rate of employment for people with disabilities, according to new research.

Ulster University research revealed that just over one third of disabled people are in work, compared to the rest of the UK which has over half.

The report from Ulster University's Economic Policy Centre (UUEPC) said that progress on helping more disabled people into work had been slow despite numerous government interventions.

Michaela Hollywood has a job, but the Co Down woman knows how difficult it is to get employed as a disabled person, and has been turned down many times.

"I have absolutely been turned away because I'm disabled.

"Your natural instinct is to blame it on ableism and prejudice. I don't always blame it on that but sometimes it is just a lack of understanding.

"I had to apply for loads of jobs in order to even get interviews and once you get interviews sometimes you just know its just a box tick exercise rather than an employer actually seeing the value in a disabled employee."

There are currently just under a quarter of a million people here registered as disabled.

Mental health and muscular issues are the main health condition people live with.

Only a third of disabled people here are employed - that's the lowest rate in the UK.

The report also warns that unemployed disabled people are twice as likely to be in poverty than an employed disabled person.

"People are going to die. That is the be all and end all of it.

"Disabled people are going to die because they won't be able to afford the essentials that you need day-to-day in order to live because they can't get a job."

Most of the complaints made to the Equality Commission are about disability discrimination in the work place at nearly 54%.

"The amount of autistic people in the workplace is only 60% in any type of full-time employment and that is below the UK average of the general population, as well as below the disability population too which is a complete travesty and it is something we should be ashamed of in society," Kerry Boyd of Autism NI said.

"Autistic people obviously have many benefits that they can add to the workplace."

Many people live with hidden disabilities.

Michaela also warns the barriers many face are a failure to recognise the contribution disabled people can make to the economy.

"I think it just crushes people. They don't see their self-worth, they don't see their capabilities. Being told no time and time again destroys that."

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