Friday, 29 October 2010

Spoof website - "The Negative About Asperger Syndrome scheme"

I'd popped onto the MoneySavingExpert forum again and a thread titled "Asperger Syndrome and Disability Discrimination Act" had been bumped up by recent posts although it was started in April, by a writer who had put together a side of A4 to try and express the effects Asperger Syndrome to employers. The post speaks of why interviews are the main barrier to employment and goes on to suggest adjustments that could be made to both recruitment and interview processes and in employment itself. Replies included one suggesting that the passage is "quite overwhelming, in that it feels a bit too 'legal' ", and one advising to bring some advantages first "not being side-tracked by chit-chat but getting 'stuck in'; approach problems in a logical way; bringing honesty to the workplace". One reply is from a poster called 'SavvySue' whose son has AS, the last 'teambuilding day' we had would have either sent him screaming from the building, or he would have sabotaged it completely because he just couldn't do what was being asked. Mind you, I came close both those reactions myself ..." I know from my own time in the public sector (though I hadn't disclosed my condition in that job) I found 'teambuilding days' hard work doing role-play.

Then there is the writer's own website ASEMP.co.uk. This has been written to highlight how most employers unwittingly discriminate against people with AS, but presented as a scheme employers follow to intentionally discriminate against AS, "The Negative About Asperger Syndrome scheme" rewording the text from the official government "Positive about Disabled People" scheme with this spoof symbol.


I wouldn't normally copy long complete texts for copyright reasons, but the link has not always worked and the home page of ASEMP.co.uk has a message about their hosting issues, so on this occasion:
About the scheme
If you have Asperger Syndrome, when applying for jobs avoid employers running the "Negative About Asperger Syndrome" scheme. Most employers currently run the scheme, but none currently display the warning symbol shown above.

Employers running the scheme have made commitments to help people with Asperger Syndrome stay unemployed and actively discriminate against them. They are keen to recognise communication and social difficulties consistent with the condition as reasons to not employ them. Applying for a job with them is a waste of time, once you have been to the interview they will not be interested. This scheme sometimes runs alongside the two ticks positive about disabled people scheme which may lead to confusion.

The five commitments
Employers who run the scheme make five commitments to ensure maximum discrimination against people with Asperger Syndrome during recruitment. These commitments are:

I.To advertise jobs as requiring good to excellent interpersonal, oral communication, and team-work skills. Even if the job itself does not require them.
II.To ask questions relating to social and communication skills in application forms, or use "psychometric" questionnaires.
III.To use interviews as the only means of determining suitability for employment. People with Asperger Syndrome are often disadvantaged in interviews compared with candidates who do not have the condition.
IV.To consider deficits in communication and social interaction justifiable cause to not offer employment, even if the job itself does not require these skills.
V.Whenever an applicant exhibits such deficits, always ignore their job-relevant qualifications, skills and abilities - even if they are better than those of other candidates.
The scheme has been highly effective. Nearly 90% of people with the condition are unemployed (source: Genevieve Edmonds & Luke Beardon (Eds), 2008, Asperger Syndrome & Employment: Adults Speak Out about Asperger Syndrome.)


Humourous and ironic as this may seem, the serious message is that as a jobseeker with Asperger, being constantly bombarded with the requirements stated leads to inevitable frustration at not being given a chance. It ties in with the comment I linked to a couple of weeks ago about "rigid person specifications" someone had posted on the DWP too.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Victory Log Entry - Temp job two days in

I've got well into this temp job these two days, I hadn't dared speak too soon because of that time I said about in Friday's post. The accountant/HR manager I'm helping is indicating she's expecting to need me two weeks, just as the agency had said. I'm using another piece of software I hadn't used before (nice to add strings to the CV bow) to match purchase invoices with goods received notes in order to either approve the invoices for payment or raise queries where there is either no goods received note, or there is but it's incorrect.

It was nice to ring the Jobcentre's signing off line yesterday. Just got to drop some e-mails to key contacts to let them know I'm doing this.

Couldn't forget to label this post as a Victory Log Entry, good to reinforce positive momentum!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Excited but nervous at same time - temping possibility

Earlier in the week I had applied for an accounts role would sound more advanced than my current experience but it was through an agency I hadn't recently dealt with anyway so would be good to e-mail them to be kept in reference to anything more suited.

Well, they phoned as there is possibly two weeks temping to help the accountant with a backlog of invoice work and filing. I'm excited but nervous at same time recalling when I "wasn't fast enough and wouldn't cut it" in January 08. I so want to do it and for it to go well, because if it does go well a temp job is better at showing my capability than an interview.

I have just got back from calling into their offices. Hope I get some decent sleep this weekend ready for starting on Monday!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Explanation with relation to a person specification

Well just after I'm posting about that reference to very rigid person specifications, I'm on one of the online boards and e-mailed for this admin and accounts position at a healthcare place. The e-mail from their contact says "explain how you consider you meet the person specification", and it is often said these jobs with very rigid "person specifications" require comprehensive explanations of how I would meet EVERY point, but it is one such classic example of the role combining tasks I would be good at with those that I wouldn't.

The documents they e-mailed cite communication with suppliers, patients, GPs, "providers" and "other external agents". It does sound a lot of responsibility for much more proactive articulate communication than I would have had where I was on the special scheme finished at the beginning of the month.

My contact got back to me with this to go at the end of the letter, "I have been totally open about all the key skills and attributes which I believe I have so I think it is only fair to inform you of those skills which I cannot always rely on. I was diagnosed with a moderate condition of the communication skills disability of Asperger syndrome, so am very aware that my skills in these areas are not the same as others. That said I do have full awareness of this and still feel that I could contribute effectively in 75-85% of the outline job specification if you were able or prepared to make a few adjustments to accommodate me. I hope that you will consider allowing me to attend an interview in order to prove my capability. I realise that it was not essential for me to disclose this information at this stage, but knowing how strong the current competition is in the jobs market I am keen not to waste your valuable time."

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

"Don't Write Them Off" - another excellent article

Another good one in the Guardian, from just over a year ago, titled "Don't Write Them Off", once again starts with how only 15% of adults with Aspergers and other autism spectrum conditions are in full-time paid work with the National Autistic Society publishing a survey to tie into launching a campaign titled "Don't Write Me Off".

At the end of the main article are some excellent bullet points about how employers could give autistic people access to work. I don't quote too much for copyright reasons, but particularly identified with:
- Think about your recruitment policy, standard job ads and selection processes are unlikely to encourage someone with autism to apply for posts they may be qualified for, says Mark Lever, chief executive of the NAS. "Look at the emphasis you're placing on communication skills, does the role really need those skills?" My findings are that the roles often do in a small part, ie contact with customers and suppliers, though I'd be able to do all other tasks.
- Don't force employees with an ASD to take part in unnecessary team-working processes which add nothing to how well something gets done," says Dr James Richards of Heriot-Watt University. "And don't force such employees into social gatherings or events without full consent." Definitely identify with this one too, with the posts I've made about role-play exercises at training days in my work in the public sector and more recently on Flexible Routeways. The social gatherings are a good point too, I posted about office parties a while back.

The second comment agreed quoting on those same points - I don't know why companies are always listing teamwork when you're going to be working alone, or insisting on open office plans where there's a lot of chatter, and encouraging "team-building" exercises. These things are just annoying to people with certain personalities; what companies really need to understand is that people are not 'one size fits all,' but it is that very diversity which can help the company. Too true!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Unemployment falls - but for how long? And JSA up...

BBC link highlighting that overall unemployment had fallen but those claiming jobseekers allowance had gone up (those not claiming it includes students, people unable to claim because of savings etc). I've said 'for how long' in the title though, "Many economists fear unemployment will rise later in the year when government cuts begin to kick in. A report by accountants PwC predicts that cuts in public sector spending will have the knock-on effect of about 500,000 job losses in the private sector."

Interviewee came across as having “Low Energy”

Forum thread in which an interviewee contacted their recruitment consultant to be told this. The second post has examples of the very things that are difficult for me eg "sell ideas and get people excited" and "coming up with lots of ideas myself", the third, whilst patronising, is also true in terms of what some interviewers have thought of me, where I've even been interviewed that is!

Monday, 11 October 2010

"Increasingly rigid job and person specifications"

Interesting comment on 21st century welfare - chapter 2 "Problems with the current system" on the DWP's own website. Most of the discussion is about "rates of welfare dependency and poverty" and "work incentives being poor", ie part time hours on mininum wage with regard to top up benefits. So much discussion of welfare reform does centre on blaming (a) unemployed people for not being willing to take jobs (b) the complexity of the system preventing the ones who ARE willing from taking many lower paid and/or part time jobs. No mention of the employer's role in this equation! First there have to be the jobs to take though, difficult enough in the current climate, then factor in the willingness of employers to offer them to some people who may not meet the criteria 100%, and I'm not just talking about disability here. This comment ties in with what I've often said about the need to re-educate employers. The writer touches on "Increasingly rigid job and person specifications" and the "human resources driven ‘closed shop’ mentality of employers", I've often wondered that many 'human resources' bods sometimes don't pass applications to the line managers that they might actually be interested in if they were to see them. How many applications / interviewees are turned down having only been interviewed / application seen ONLY by an HR bod and not the manager who would be responsible for them if taken on? Very good post, and standing out in that it focuses on the employer for once.