Astriid’s End Of Year Round-Up 2023

It’s no secret that, like many charities, 2023 has been a tough year for Astriid. We have fought to keep our work going in the face of immense financial challenges and have had to make difficult decisions about the way we operate. But despite this, there have also been several victories too. Here are just some of the key moments that have shaped our charity’s story in 2023…

This year, we had to make the tough decision to pause our bespoke candidate support services due to financial constraints. Our one-to-one support to help people with long-term health conditions take steps towards finding meaningful work is in huge demand and we are working hard to begin to bring this back in 2024. In the meantime, we have been producing informational online content and downloadable PDFs to provide individuals with key information and advice that they can apply to their search for inclusive opportunities and also utilise in their place of work.

In the meantime, members of our team have appeared on notable podcasts and in print journalism, and have informed media content and output, based on not only our work through Astriid but also our own lived experiences of the matter at hand. We have also worked hard to use our online platforms to evolve attitudes and break down stereotypes around working with a long-term condition. We’ve produced a range of topical blog posts, with excellent additions from a small group of volunteer writers who have been supported and mentored to improve their digital skills and gain inclusive work experience. Our ‘Reasons To Hire People With Energy Limiting Conditions’ video brought together a diverse range of voices to share the unique skills that we bring to the table, to huge positive acclaim… with around 50,000 views on Instagram alone!

Additionally, we have turned our focus to facilitating change on a broader scale. Astriid Consulting was launched to provide support and training to employers, recruiters, and organisations to help them better accommodate people with long-term health conditions in their workforce. We created bespoke courses with a particular focus on inclusive recruitment and flexible working practice, to help organisations to better understand the access barriers their employees face and how these can be overcome. We have already provided our consultancy services to key organisations, including departments in the NHS, and look forward to working with even more notable establishments in the future.

We have also supported the Flexible Working Bill which reached Royal Assent this year, and in a Parliamentary briefing around Invisible Disabilities In Education And Employment, we saw the important phrase ‘Energy Limiting Conditions’ used for the first time – a huge moment for the one in three disabled people in the UK affected by these conditions.

Over the last 12 months, we had also been working hard behind the scenes to conduct new research into working with a chronic illness. Our previous report, Employment And Long-Term Illness, was one of the first papers of its kind – shedding light on an area and population that is often excluded from broader research on disability and work. Our new report, Making Employment Work For People With Long-Term Health Conditions, provides even more data and insights into the health-related and social barriers that individuals face when finding and being in work along a life-altering health condition. We are so proud of this piece of work and how it has been received, not only from influential organisations such as the Disability Employment Charter and Disability News Service, but also businesses and initiatives outside of the disability sphere that want to do better in supporting their employees’ wellbeing.

While Astriid as a charity focusses on helping people with long-term conditions who want and are able to work, we have always aimed to make clear that not everybody with such conditions can work… nor should they ever be forced into unsuitable roles at the expense of their health and wellbeing. After the proposal and announcement of devastating changes to be made to essential ‘Fit To Work’ benefits and social support, we strongly felt that we wanted to use our platform to advocate and lend our voice to the marginalised community of people who simply cannot and are not well enough to work.

We responded to the early proposed amendments to Work Capability Assessments, using our own expertise and existing research findings to oppose the introduction of various new damaging measures. The announcement of the Autumn Budget confirmed that unfortunately, many of these changes would be implemented despite widespread opposition from subject experts. We provided individuals with tools to voice their own lived experiences, including a template letter they could send to their MP, and we’re also using our influence to spur more people in positions of power into action. We have now had the opportunity to meet with Sir Stephen Twigg and Kit Malthouse, reflecting both sides of the political spectrum, to discuss our response to the changes that are to be introduced and share the valuable insights identified from our research and work on the frontline.

As always, we are immensely grateful to our volunteers and fundraisers who have raised vital funds for Astriid – something that has made all the difference to the charity’s survival. From our annual London To Paris cycling event to our creative ’20 for £20k’ Astriid Challenge, an enjoyable golf day at Royal Ascot to our festive #RaiseAGlassForAstriid campaign, we are so thankful for the ongoing support of individuals and organisations. If you’re so inclined, you can still donate on JustGiving here, or share the link with your networks online. Donations of any size are hugely appreciated and can make more of a difference than you might think.

Our team will be taking some essential rest over the festive season and into January, before turning our focus to the New Year. We’re working hard to bring back our unique candidate support offering in 2024, while continuing to consult with organisations and advocate for change on a broader scale. Thank you so much for supporting us and cheering us on this year – we’ll see you soon!