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Stigma about chronic conditions harming youth employment

Young people with chronic health conditions are more vulnerable to job loss, a new report by Fit for Work UK cautions.

Written by The Work Foundation, the report shows that 24% of 16-24 year olds with a work-limiting disability are unemployed compared to 14% of those without. Additionally, 29% had difficulty remaining employed, 27% thought their chronic condition inhibited access to training and development, while 61% said their condition stopped them from reaching their full potential at work.

The report sets out practical recommendations for schools, employers, policy-makers and clinicians to help remove obstacles for young people with chronic conditions.

In a foreword to the report, Dame Carol Black, co-president of the Fit for Work Coalition, said: “This report takes a look at this challenge at a time when youth unemployment in the UK is at worryingly high levels. It captures very well the scale of the obstacles faced by young people with long-term, chronic or fluctuating conditions as they seek to make the transition from education and employment – and then to develop and thrive in the workplace.”

Kate Summers, co-report author, said: “Youth unemployment can cause serious psychological scarring and our research shows that problems often begin for young people with a chronic condition before entering a first job. We know from our findings that stigma towards people with chronic conditions can also result in self-stigma. Almost 93% of those surveyed indicated that the condition affected their confidence.

“We are calling on the Department of Education to provide improved education to young people about chronic conditions in order to reduce stigma. Healthcare professionals need to be incentivised to consider work as an outcome of successful treatment and employers should play a greater role in shaping the skills of young people, as well as identifying and establishing workplace adjustments.”

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