News: Fully Funded PhD Awarded

The DRILL Programme is delighted to announce that Ruth Nortey – DRILL 4 Nations Researcher based at Disability Wales – has been awarded a fully funded PhD opportunity. The research is entitled ‘What Works in Wales? Developing an evidence base to inform a kitemark for employers to address the disability employment gap’. The aim of the project is to identify an evidence base of ‘what works’ for disabled people in employment, and to contribute to the creation of a Disability Standard for employers.

Forming part of the DRILL legacy, this PhD research will be jointly supervised by Disability Wales and by Cardiff University’s Professor Debbie Foster, who is also a member of DRILL Wales National Advisory Group. This is a four-year PhD studentship, starting in October 2019 and ending in September 2023, is jointly funded jointly by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Cardiff University Business School.

What is DRILL?

DRILL (Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning) is an innovative five-year UK-wide programme led by disabled people, for disabled people and funded by the Big Lottery Fund (BLF). The Programme is a four-nation project, led by Disability Action NI in partnership with Disability Wales, Disability Rights UK and Inclusion Scotland.

DRILL promotes coproduction and collaboration between disabled people and their organisations, academia, research bodies and policy makers. DRILL has funded 32 projects. This PhD collaboration is just one example of the growing connections between disabled people’s organisations and universities which have emerged throughout the course of the DRILL Programme.

How to research the Welsh Disability Employment Gap?

Much existing research on the disability employment gap concentrates on the number of disabled people out of work, often driving the short term political objective of getting disabled people off benefits and into any kind of work and overlooking the importance of job quality and careers.

In June 2018, Disability Wales Chief Executive Rhian Davies was a keynote speaker at a launch event organised by the Learning and Work Institute Cymru and the Welsh Government. This made 6 recommendations: one was to ‘develop a Wales Disability Standard’: a kitemark for employers to be part of the Welsh Government ‘Employability Action Plan’, which Ruth Nortey will help develop.

Building on DRILL-funded research from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, this project aims to highlight what disabled people themselves regard as best practice in employment. Several DRILL-funded projects have explored issues directly relating to the employment of disabled people, including:

– Barriers and enablers to employment: Black disabled people living with Sickle Cell Disorders (SCD) (led by De Montfort University)

 Legally Disabled (led by Cardiff University)

– The Bridge: Changing attitudes and communities by turning skills and experience into earnings for self-advocacy organisations and self-advocates (led by Barod CIC).

The research will focus on 3 key questions:

  1. How can findings from the DRILL Programme inform employment policies and practice?
  2. What factors contribute to the persistent disability employment gap in Wales?
  3. What already works for disabled people in employment and how could future initiatives build on existing initiatives/practice to inform the development of a Welsh standard for employers?

Stage one will involve a secondary analysis of relevant data from DRILL projects – using data archived at the UK Data Service – alongside a documentary analysis of regional sources to develop an understanding of the Welsh context.

Stage two will develop ‘profiles’ of good practice, drawn from regional, national or international examples of organisations, occupations, or successful social policy or third sector initiatives. Creating ‘profiles’ will entail interviewing key actors and stakeholders as well as evaluating the stated outcomes.

Building upon existing DRILL networks, it is expected there will be scope for members of the four National Advisory Groups (NAGs) or the Central Research Committee (CRC) to form part of the PhD project steering committee. This will ensure that the research is coproduced at each stage, enabling disabled people to feed into future research and Welsh policy and service provision. In turn, it is envisaged this will also positively influence policies and practices in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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