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  • Writer's pictureKyrby Brown

Demeaned, Bewildered and Angry

This is a bit of a long one, I'm sorry, but I feel it's important to share with you an outrageous experience I had last week...

I lost my job last week. Not an experience I would recommend - avoid at all costs, particularly if you like your job!

In this instance I had very little control over the circumstances as very sadly, the company I worked for went into administration. It has been a rather stressful week, but I have mostly remained hopeful that I could move forward into another successful Business Development/Management role, whilst also building the foundations of a new business, grown from the loss of the last. Despite this I decided to hedge my bets and ‘sign-on’ because finding the right job as disabled person can take a little more time.

So I filled in the necessary online applications and received a Job Centre Plus appointment with a ‘Job Coach’. On arrival, I sat waiting in my chair for my name to be called I had travelled there with my PA who waited with me. The first mistake was the ‘coach’ addressed my PA first when calling my name, but that was easily and effectively corrected, I pointedly responded myself as I often have to do. I rolled over to the Lady’s desk, which was surrounded by a Perspex screen. This was proven rather pointless as I couldn’t hear her, so she ended up sitting to the side of me anyway - crazy COVID cautions.

I explained why I was there and we discussed my options. It was agreed that I would commit to 20 hours per week looking for work, this was referred to as my ‘activities’. Slightly patronising, I thought, but I had no issue with this as I was treated the same as anyone else in my situation….the next part however, absolutely shocking!

I was referred to an external service called MAXIMUS, this is government backed scheme where supposed ‘specialist job coaches’ help people with additional needs find work.

I was taken to a separate office to speak to the MAXIMUS coach. He began by explaining to me the voluntary program and services he could provide. Most of these services seemed to be aimed towards preparing for work and not actually finding a sustainable job, for example CV writing and interview practice, like I was back at school. So, I explained that I had just been made redundant from a good job with good pay (I told him my salary), and that I’d like to look for a similar position in order to cover my bills and sustain my lifestyle.

At this he seemed genuinely shocked, what he said next left me speechless…

His exact words were:

“we usually look to get individuals with additional needs into entry level positions, if I was to find a job earning £Xk per year (my previous salary) I would be taking it myself, not giving it to you” - now read that again…

Now I’d like to clarify that I wasn’t asking for anything unreasonable, I have been successfully working in a Business Development role, I have defined skill-set and a good level of education. I am not naive and I know my own abilities. I am an ambitious person, I have always tried to do my absolute best in any challenge. Why was it then considered unreasonable that I ask to be paid a fair wage?

The way I see it this man believed that because my body is different I am worth less as an employee. This outlines everything wrong with society. In that moment I felt demeaned, bewildered and angry. How dare someone propose that I wouldn’t be suitable for management positions purely because of my physical challenges? That is entirely preposterous!

We need to stop seeing disability as an inherently negative thing. I would argue that my disability has given me exceptional problem solving and communication skills. I have been employing my own support staff since I left school by necessity. I know how to manage a team effectively and can tackle a whole range of challenges in a calm and efficient manner - all things required by businesses across the globe!

Despite this a government backed scheme has suggested to me that I am worth less. I can’t expect a good salary and the lifestyle that goes with it. I need to look more ‘entry-level’! - Wrong, just wholly wrong!

If this is the attitude expressed by those whose entire purpose is to support those with additional needs to find work then it’s no surprise there’s a lack of disabled individuals in the workforce. It's good to see my tax money going to good use!

I did not ‘opt-in’ to the MAXIMUS scheme, instead I left the Job Centre feeling a whole lot less human that when I had entered. Luckily for me this feeling didn’t last long, I have good people around me who always support my ambitions. In true form I feel more determined than ever to prove the system wrong. However, this is not the case for everyone. The language and suggestions used in that room were dangerous, they could easily dash the aspirations of the next person. Disabled people looking for work need elevation, we need a little help highlighting our strengths because we are worth just as much as those standing beside us. We should not settle for any job we can get, and we should not have to struggle to be heard.

If anyone is reading this and feeling how I felt in that room, know that you are not just what others see you as. Your capabilities are determined by you and you alone, not someone sitting the other side of a desk. Confidence and self-belief will take you far in the world of work, it may still be a struggle, but we are used to that. Don’t give up the fight, push for what you think you should have, not what others tell you you can have. It will be worth it in the end.

I’m sorry that this blog is a little more negative that my usual, there’s lots of positivity on the way, I promise. I wanted to share this experience because sometimes we want to hear the bad bits, living with a disability is sometimes a struggle and knowing that struggle is shared can make things easier. Onwards and upwards, I may still be angry but my protest is not giving up, living a full life and finding another good job!

Photo: Running Frames on a sunny day - something I hope to get back to rather soon!

173 views2 comments



I came across your page on Facebook.

While I admire your positivity and drive, I have to point out that your experience is not unusual.

You also seem to have been lucky enough to never have to live on disability benefits that I and my husband have to do. I am not saying this as a criticism but rather that if you had, the work coach's attitude would be very familiar.

Disabled people on Universal Credit and legacy benefits are treated as 3rd class citizens by the jubcwntre, the DWP and nowadays society in general. Because we are not economically active we are considered worthless. We are constantly medically assessed by companies like Maximus whose main aim is to de…

Kyrby Brown
Kyrby Brown

I wish to respond by saying that I am totally respectful or your experience.

Unfortunately I have spent extended periods of my life entirely reliant on benefits, and understand the system well.

What I wish to impress that just because my experience is considered normal that does not mean it's right. I'm calling out the injustice in the system as I truly believe it needs to change.

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