Job club urges firms to sign up to get Lanarkshire’s deaf community into work

Sign of the times...Ian Galloway and Helen Penman, of Lanarkshire Deaf Club, are keen for local employers to help by signing up for sign language training.
Sign of the times...Ian Galloway and Helen Penman, of Lanarkshire Deaf Club, are keen for local employers to help by signing up for sign language training.
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A job club for the deaf community which was set up earlier this year has been congratulated for quickly helping two people into employment.

Run by Lanarkshire Deaf Club, the new venture was set up in response to many of its members who were left frustrated when it came to trying to find work.

But while the success is worth celebrating, members of the club are calling on businesses to support them as they aim to make not only getting, but keeping, work easier for the deaf community.

Ian Galloway, the club’s project manager, said: “I feel it is important that local business, services and the wider community are more aware of the needs of the deaf community.

“I would like to see Lanarkshire as a place of excellence where hearing and deaf people are able to access services and communicate freely with each other.”

The local picture reflects the fact that nationally, the statistics are not in their favour – and there is much that local businesses could do to make things easier.

According to the Scottish Council on Deafness, 70 per cent of deaf people believe they have failed to get a job because of their deafness, while unemployment runs at 19 per cent for deaf people, compared to five per cent of non-disabled people.

Ian, who is profoundly deaf himself, campaigns for equal access and rights for deaf people.

He said: “The main barriers that the deaf community face is access in their own language.

“It is a common misconception that deaf people understand and use English in a signed format.

“British Sign Language is our first language, not English as many people mistakenly think.”

The fact that sign language is so different to English is a huge barrier for the deaf community when it comes to finding employment.

Ian said: “Many people have told us that they find it difficult and stressful attending the Job Centre or approaching potential employers due to the communication barrier.”

He received this feedback at the Deaf Club Social Club, which meets in Motherwell every week, and the decision was made to develop a job club for the deaf.

“There are several job clubs and support in the area but none have the communication skills need to converse with the deaf community freely,” explained Ian.

One of the difficulties is that many application forms have moved online.

There are two problems that this brings for people with hearing difficulty.

Firstly, a lot of questions in written English can be extremely difficult for some deaf people to understand.

And secondly, many of the deaf community living on benefits don’t have the same access to internet services.

That’s where the Deaf Job Club is proving its worth.

Helen Penman is a qualified communication support worker who assists in form filling and telephone calls needed to apply for a job.

Helen uses her skills to translate the written English into British Sign Language.

Central Scotland regional MSP Graham Simpson sent his congratulations to the charity on its success.

He said: “I am extremely impressed with the initiative taken by Lanarkshire Deaf Club to create its own job club, with the success of securing two new jobs in its first month.

“I hope the job club will go from strength to strength.”

However, it’s not just finding work that’s the problem – the lack of understanding from many employers means that deaf people feel isolated and struggle for recognition in their workplaces.

The survey by the Scottish Council on Deafness also revealed that 64 per cent have experienced communication difficulties at work, while more than half are unable to communicate with hearing colleagues.

It’s attitudes like these that the deaf community would like to challenge, working together with local businesses to improve things.

Lanarkshire Deaf Club provides basic sign language training to businesses and offers a Level 1 course to anyone who is interested.

They would be happy to hear from any individual, school or business in who would like to sign up.

Visit the website or call 01698 268700 to find out more. The office is open Monday to Friday from 9am-4pm.