Monthly Archives: January 2012

Thoughts from #UKGC12

This weekend, I went to an ‘unconference’ for the first time. I attended UKGovCamp 2012 at Microsoft’s London Headquarters on Saturday. UKGovCamp ran over Friday and Saturday (I am a bit tight on the annual leave so only attended on the Saturday).

Worth looking through a few other posts about the event here, here here and here – with an summary of a session about Social Media and Whitehall here. (I didn’t attend that session as it was on Friday but I think there are a lot of issues that resonate with people working in local government at the ‘frontline’ as well).

It is quite a staggering experience to be alongside people from so many different walks and paths in life who converge on a physical location to discuss, plan, brainstorm and problem-solve around similar topics. In this forum the discussions were around people working in the public sector and issues relating to it although the definitions were helpfully quite broad.

The first part of the day (and I’m only referring to the Saturday here!) involved everyone introducing themselves in a large room. Then people ‘bid’ or presented the sessions they wanted to run.

The problem for me, was that there was an embarrassment of riches – too many people to talk to and too many topics I want to discuss. I will write up some of my learning from the individual sessions and particular conversations at a different time.

My main learning points were possibly more ethereal than many there – particularly as I attended on the ‘doing’ day where solutions were being planned which probably wasn’t my forte to be blunt.

While I’d love to follow the bullet point format for ease of reading, I’m afraid I couldn’t manage it so here are more longer learning points!

– I met many enthusiastic and visionary people in and around government – not necessary (rarely) at management levels but people willing to spend an entire Saturday in London (no small cost regarding travel/hotels for some) to talk about making things work better for the people who use and need our services.

– I found a pleasant ‘niche’ of people very interested and involved in the social care sector which made me feel less out of place to be there and convinced me of the importance of front line practitioners to take a real interest in the ways that technology and creative thinking can change our practice and ‘make things better’ and use these skills to add our expertise rather than wait for systems to be delivered to us and then gripe about them.

-I don’t think I’ve ever attended an event where everyone else in the session had a Twitter ID and where everyone was comfortable with others tweeting/typing during the session (sounds trite but actually, Twitter is a very useful way to engage in post-conference chat as it allows open conversations/sharing links/books/articles in an easy way and doesn’t demand the same intensity as a ‘one to one email chat’)

– I met some people who work in wholly different fields who really challenged my assumptions about the ways things work in our sector and helped me to imagine difference and see it as real. This is a really important lesson for social care and social work. We need to see difference beyond the individual and in societies and organisations.

– It was great being around people who lack some of the cynicism of work in the public sector. Which is, despite what the government would have us believe, a fantastic place to work.

– While there is a massive amount of work that can be done to build and make connections and have discussions in the social media space, particularly around accessibility, sometimes it just can’t beat a face to face discussion.

-There’s no such thing as too many plug points when everyone has at least a phone and a laptop/tablet.

-It’s really really good to be around ‘geeks’. They are some of the most friendly people around.

– Me + table with free pens = New pen supplies for the next year. Sorry guys. Irresistable to a social worker used to working in an open plan office where black pens last an average of 3  mins when left on a desk. Even in these days of ‘paperless’ working.

I have a lot more to ponder on when I get time. I think there’s a lot of change going on in service delivery and we have to try and be involved and make links across organisations between the tech teams and the front line teams else our needs are left behind. I could get hooked on unconferences too. Despite being a long day, I feel fresher than I have for a long time about going back into work tomorrow and ‘making things better’ at a macro as well as micro level.

And finally, but most important of all – I met some really really fantastic people doing really fantastic things. I hope to write more about that over the next week and weeks. Thanks to everyone I met and who welcomed me into the ‘govcamp’ family. I’ll be back!

Next stop – BlueLightCamp in April in Manchester! I would encourage other social workers and frontline social care staff (as well as all in emergency services) to attend. Let’s make it work and let’s make us and our services work better!

#disabledgradnojob – crowdsourcing ideas through Twitter

I receive many requests for help and advice across a range of diverse areas including: social media, social learning, employment, finding a good care home, the not for profit sector and community engagement. Those who follow me on Twitter @shirleyayres will be aware of my belief that social media networks are important communication channels for an increasingly connected world.

I recently received an email asking the question “How does a person with a disability get an interview or funding for research?” I am not a disability specialist but I use the internet and social media networks daily to find and evaluate information and knowledge sources and prepare reports which have included ‘The future for personalisation? service users, carers & digital engagement’ 

The challenge – an experienced manager and frustrated potential employee with a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science and a Masters in Human Resource Development who has not been able to find paid employment since 2002.  A feeling that recruitment agencies are interested in her CV until she mentions that she has a disability. Wondering about the value of supported employment schemes because apparently the  work experience placements and volunteering are not sufficient evidence for employers of her current capacity in a work environment.

I thought it would be worth seeing if ideas could be crowdsourced through Twitter. I am aware of the limitations of Twitter when 140 characters can only provide a brief summary of a question and the issues whilst maintaining confidentiality. I sent out this tweet:  “I’m looking for recruitment agencies which specialise in placing graduates with disabilities” which I followed with “ any thoughts qualified HR disabledgrad w/ lots of work placements but #nojobUnfortunately I did not use a #hashtag initially so I am unable to assess the reach of the tweets (through Tweetreach) but I received over 20 responses with a range of ideas including offers to contact connections and to respond directly to the email request for advice.

I would like to thank everyone who responded and I have now reviewed all of the recommended websites and associated links. My summary of the resources available with links to the websites and Twitter names which may be helpful for people in a similar situation.

EvenBreak @Evenbreak Evenbreak is a new social enterprise which helps  employers attract more disabled applicants and helps disabled job seekers find work with employers who will value them. Evenbreak is run by disabled people, for disabled people and they are keen to promote a positive image of disabled people in employment.  Job seekers can post a CV and browse for jobs, employers can post jobs and browse registered candidates. It was interesting to read about Evenbreak – the story on the blog.

Diversity Jobs claims to attract 20 million searches each month for the vacancies it carries on behalf of organisations keen to be known as inclusive employers of talent, irrespective of gender, ethnicity, disability, age and sexual orientation. Job seekers can post a CV and browse for jobs, employers can post jobs and browse registered candidates

MilkRound  @milkroundonline  whilst Milkround is not specifically aimed at disabled applicants it has been included because it was recommended and provides useful information about graduate careers,  internships, graduate jobs and schemes.. The site is designed to help applicants understand different job areas and industries. It also acts as a guide to student life with offers, information and the latest internships and placements.

EmployAbility @Employ_Ability was recommended by a number of people. EmployAbility is a not-for-profit organisation assisting students and graduates with disabilities, including dyslexia or long term health conditions, into employment. Students and graduates can register for support and advice, there is a list of Disability Inclusive employers and useful FAQs for employers and universities.

Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services @AGCAS kindly retweeted my request for ideas. AGCAS is the professional association for higher education (HE) careers practitioners and those involved in the provision of careers and employability education, information, advice and guidance to current or prospective HE students and graduates.

Some of the charities that run supported employment programmes:

Papworth Trust @Papworth_Trust delivers several government employment programmes, including the Work Programme and Work Choice. They specialise in helping disabled people, those with health conditions or those who are disadvantaged to find and keep jobs. The Employment Helpdesk 0800 952 5000 is available between 10am and 4pm. A jobs page lists employment opportunities at Papworth Trust.

United Response @united response work with people with learning disabilities across England and Wales. They provide supported employment services and a growing number of social enterprises. Many people they support have complex physical needs in addition to their leanring disability. A jobs page lists employment opportunities at United Response.

Remploy @Remployare one of the UK’s leading providers of employment services and employment to people experiencing complex barriers to work. Having spent time with staff at one of the Remploy offices I am impressed by their dedication and determination to support candidates in finding suitable employment opportunities.

Some inspiring disabled entrepreneurs with wisdom and experience to share

Martyn Sibley @martynsibley Martyn is an entrepreneur,  blogger, speaker and  creator of a series of webinars providing information for people living with long term conditions and disabilities He is co-editor of the informative online magazine Disability Horizons a disability lifestyle magazine pioneering a 21st century view of disability

Alison Smith @PeskyPeople  Alison is a Disability Arts consultantt, poet and human rights campaigner  who is harnessing digital and social media to improve access for disabled and deaf people. Developer of @go_genie which is making the inaccessible accessible through crowd-sourced access information.

Denise Stephens @enabledby Enabled by Design is a community of people who are passionate about well-designed, everyday products that challenge the one-size-fits-all approach to assistive equipment. A good example of a website that encourages service users with a disability to share information and thoughts about products and services that are improving the quality of their lives.

Other useful resources

AbilityNet @AbilityNet AbilityNet is a national charity helping disabled adults and children use computers and the internet by adapting and adjusting their technology. The Equality and Human Rights Commission, AbilityNet and BCS have developed the Web Accessibility Essentials e-learning course designed to equip individuals and businesses interested in accessibility best practice with a fundamental understanding of digital inclusion.

VoiceAbility @voiceability_vaVoiceAbility provides advocacy, active voice and voice work services. No specific employment support services but their current vacancies are advertised on the website.

ClearKit @Clearkit The Clear Company audits recruitment policy, process and practice for employers creating better opportunities for people from under represented groups in the work place. The Disability Clearkit was developed in association with the DWP, to address the barriers employers face when recruiting disabled talent by inspiring, educating and empowering organisations to adopt best practice principles when recruiting. Organisations can apply to become Clear Assured which states their commitment to identifying and removing barriers from recruitment policy, process and practice which have the potential to exclude disabled people.

SKILL the National Bureau for Students with Disabilities has now closed  Disability Rights UK are  providing support and information for disabled students and there is a freephone helpline 0800 328 5050

Disability Alliance, the National Centre for Independent Living (NCIL) and Radar have now unified to form ‘Disability Rights UK’ @DAnewsflash

The  Disability Toolkits website, established in 2006, provides information, advice and resources for disabled students, for academics involved in the provision of placements, and for prospective employers offering work experience, internships and placements. There is useful general guidance about managing off campus learning for disabled students. The page with useful links does not seem to have been updated recently and therefore does not reflect the recent closures and amalgamations which have taken place amongst disability organisations. It is probably wise to double check any specific information provided.


There are many innovative ways in which individuals and communities are using social media to find, share and act upon information, knowledge and experience.  There is no shortage of information but limited signposting which makes it hard to find relevant resources. There also seems to be a lack of co-ordination between information providers across boundaries. It is a continuing challenge to find the right information to meet particular and specific circumstances especially in the complex and very broad area of care.  Access to timely and appropriate information, advice and support has been highlighted time and again as a major problem across the care and  health sectors

A Google search for “UK recruitment agencies placing disabled graduate students” offered  23,900,000  results. Using Twitter as an information source provided useful initial signposting to recommended resources which could then be explored further.  I predict a growing demand for trusted intermediaries aware of the role of social innovation and technology, confident in using the internet who are able to provide quality search results within a relevant context.  A logical response perhaps to  “information overload and filter failure” (Clay Shirky).  

I am sure there are many other resources available which are not mentioned in this post. Please feel free to add resources you have found useful, any comments you may have about using any of the services listed or tweet your thoughts using #disabledgradnojob. 

Stats from the Social Media World

Three perspectives on the use of social media in 2011. Whilst there are variations in the statistics especially for UK Twitter users (maybe due to research methodology?) the numbers of people now using social media are impressive and growing rapidly.

Social Media in 2011 @videoinfographs


The State of Social Media In The UK (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) @Mindjumpers

Facebook now has a reach of just over 30 million unique users for the UK. That means the proportion of the UK total population registered with the site is fast approaching 50%. 25-34 year olds are now the largest age group on Facebook.

Twitter has shown explosive growth this year, with the number of reported users more than doubling from 12 million to 26 million.

LinkedIn also continues to grow, and now looks to reach around 10% of the UK population

Google+ made its debut to great excitement in 2011, According to socialtimes, the UK total user base is still under one million – and globally, only 17% of those signing up become regular, active users.


Social Media Usage in the UK – The findings @Umpf

37.4 million UK adults use Facebook regularly
32.1 million UK adults use YouTube regularly
15.5 million UK adults on Twitter
7.9 million UK adults on LinkedIn
6.7 million UK adults on Flickr