Data from disability equality charity Scope suggests that disabled people aged between 16 and 64 are almost twice as likely to be unemployed compared to non-disabled people.

Often people with disability face greater employment barriers. Add a mobile military lifestyle into the mix and it can become an even bigger issue. Many army parents also care for their children with an additional need/and or disability, which can also be a hurdle to overcome when looking for work.

Karen Ross, AFF Health & Additional Needs Specialist, spoke to Amanda and Hannah about their experiences.

Amanda (main photo) has cerebral palsy and for the majority of the time uses a wheelchair. She is married to Matthew, a serving soldier, and they have two children, Dennis and Olivia.

Amanda was a learning support assistant, something she really enjoyed. However, when the school was in the process of becoming an academy, she was put into a redundancy pool.

Amanda says: “Employers always seem to assume that I’ll be moving on as I’m married to a soldier.”

Amanda has also felt that being a wheelchair user is a barrier. “People often judge me before they get to know me as a person, as all they see is my wheelchair,” she adds.

Flexible working

In 2016, Matthew had an accident at work which the couple thought may lead to him being medically discharged. So that she could help the family financially, Amanda set up an online business, Bonsai Body Jewellery. She says: “Having my own business means I don’t have to look for work when I move as I can take it with me, so it’s flexible and transferable.

“I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved and I also find it a great way to meet others. It’s a good conversation starter, especially when I’ve just moved to a new posting.”

Career goals

Hannah, Darren with Grace, Adam and Jacob

Hannah, Darren with Grace, Adam and Jacob

Hannah, who is married to Darren, also found that starting her own business has enabled her to shape her career alongside military family life. She previously found it challenging to transfer her role in the NHS. “I was often offered posts that meant demotion,” she says.

When children Grace and Adam were both at school it become more challenging to find suitable employment. At this time Adam was exhibiting some autistic traits and challenging behaviour and Darren was deployed, “I was constantly being called into school, so there was no way I could work.”

After their third child Jacob was born, Hannah was very unwell and it took her over a year to recover, which prompted her to start her own business so that she could work flexibly from home.

“I did the Supporting the Unsung Hero course, which was brilliant. It gave me the confidence to start a different and more viable business using the skills I’d gained in my previous career.”

Hannah went on to start Hi!Virtual, which provides operational management to small businesses, with four virtual assistants providing admin support, including two military spouses. Hannah says: “Whilst owning my own business was not something I had ever considered, it has been the perfect solution to enable me to have a career that fits around the needs of my family and military life. I need the mental challenge that having a career brings and, whilst being a business owner isn’t easy, seeing it grow has made all the effort worthwhile.”

Sources of support

Access to work

Help to find or remain in work if you have a physical and/or mental health condition and/or disability:

Autism at Work Programme

Run by the National Autistic Society: uk/what-we-do/employment

Carers’ Passport scheme

If you’re a carer, you may be eligible:

Disability Confident Employer Scheme include a list of signed-up employers

Support to Work

Scope’s employment support programme for people with disability aged 16 or over: