If you’re an Army spouse with an additional need and/or disability, or if you’re caring for a child with an additional need and/or disability, finding suitable employment can be a real challenge. Army&You spoke to several families to find out their experiences…

FORCED to give up her much-loved role as a midwife when she became a paraplegic, AFF’s Health & Additional Needs Specialist Karen Ross admits that her life changed ‘dramatically’.

Karen Ross

“I had to reassess what my future employment would be,” she explained. “I hadn’t worked for ten years when I applied for my current role with AFF.

“I was really excited at the prospect of working again and the job description really suited my skillset and needs perfectly, I couldn’t have written a better one myself.”

Karen feels working has transformed her life and given her confidence, self-respect and an opportunity to work with dedicated, interesting people. She added: “It is also great to be earning my own money again!”

Finding the right job
Army spouse Rachel developed a medical condition which meant she required some support and adaptations to ensure her work environment suited her needs.

She explained: “I feel incredibly fortunate that when I received the news that I have a disabling condition, I had the full support of the MOD school where I was then employed.

“With their support and by adapting things to assist me, I was able to continue doing a job I loved and be a positive role model to the children I worked with. In a time when my future health was questionable, being able to continue working without discrimination but with tremendous support from my colleagues was invaluable not only to my personal wellbeing but to that of my family too.”

Mobility is an issue for a number of spouses looking for employment, but when you require extra support getting into work, it can be a real challenge.

Karen added: “Rachel and I have been fortunate because we are in employment that suits our needs and we both have supportive employers.

“However, for many family members this isn’t the case. If you are looking for work and have a disability, check to see if the advert or application form has a ‘disability confident’ symbol and the ‘positive about disabled people’ symbol (two ticks) because this indicates that employers are dedicated to employing people with a disability.”

Supporting parent carers
Some Army spouses are parent carers and this can also be a significant barrier to finding employment.

Izzy was working in the construction industry but a few years after giving birth to her son he was investigated for autism.

To get a diagnosis meant going through four years of appointments with healthcare professionals. Izzy said: “We were pulled from pillar to post and I had to give up work.

“It is really difficult to commit to a job when you may be called at any time by school if he was having a bad day. You can’t go to an interview and tell them that you may not be able to commit fully to the job.”

Izzy’s son is now taking GCSEs and has become more independent and settled, so this has allowed her to access Manpower employability sessions and she is feeling more confident about looking for future employment opportunities.

Jo, who is a carer to her son Harry, has opted for voluntary work and currently volunteers for AFF. She explained: “For us personally it is not feasible for me to work because Harry has to have specific, trained care and I am his main carer.

“Volunteering allows me to fill the gaps in my CV and to get in touch with people on the patch by helping at coffee mornings and supporting the local AFF co-ordinator.”

Get in touch
Spousal employment is very much on AFF’s agenda this year.

If you are experiencing issues finding suitable employment due to additional needs or disability, or those of your child, contact Karen Ross at additionalneeds@aff.org.uk

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