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Supported employment - part three

08 Jul 2019

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By Nic Moore, Disability Training and Consultancy Specialist, Remploy

Welcome back to my third and final blog covering supported employment.

I regularly ask delegates during my training workshops; “Why is employment good for us?” Undoubtedly, being in employment contributes to our ‘financial wellbeing’ and that gives us independence. Employment is also beneficial to our ‘overall’ wellbeing (emotional, social and physical). 

For me, my job gives me much more than a wage at the end of the month (which is undoubtedly helpful and the main outcome we expect for a hard day’s work). However, after my family, my job is the most compelling reason I have to get out of bed every morning! 

Talking about what I do for a living is a conversation starter and one of the main topics (after the weather) that we talk about with family and friends, both the good times and the ‘not so good’ times. Work gives us an opportunity to meet and connect with people, I have certainly made many lifelong friends whilst working at Remploy. It also builds our self-confidence;  giving us an opportunity to demonstrate our skills (the things we’re good at) and to be valued for these. Working also allows us to be involved in things we’re passionate about and this ‘feels good’, whilst providing an opportunity to continually develop, learn, thrive and share our ideas and experience. 

I personally believe no one has a ‘right’ to a job. However, we all have the ‘right’ to the same ‘level playing field’ to access a job, and that is essentially what supported employment is, it levels the playing field. Supported employment ‘bridges the gaps’ to employment that some disabled people are unable to bridge for themselves. Supported employment service providers, internships and those delivering welfare to work programmes are essential to delivering employment outcomes for those with disabilities. It is these important services that will ‘bridge the gap’ between the disabled and non-disabled employment rates. 

Last month, I introduced the five stage framework for supported employment, and discussed the first two. In this blog, I want to explore the final three stages; job finding, employer engagement and on and off work support. 

Job finding and employer engagement: You may recall on my first blog I referred to employer engagement as being ‘the big one’. In my experience of delivering supported employment training, it is usually the area that those working in this sector experience the most barriers. Employers are key to providing a successful supported employment service. It is essential to work with them as well as jobseekers, to understand the skills and abilities of the jobseeker and effectively match them to the needs of the employer. 

We know that ‘traditional’ job finding methods for those using supported employment services aren’t accessible, I would like to take this opportunity to briefly cover the often ‘contentious’ topic of work experience or unpaid work which is not in itself supported employment. My opinion is, that when this is managed correctly it can be an effective way to ‘bridge the gaps’ for jobseekers by enabling them to demonstrate recent work experience, builds confidence, develops skills. It can also provide a reference opportunity and allow the jobseeker to ‘test’ a particular sector ‘out’. 

The work experience employer can ‘vouch’ for your jobseeker’s skills (which simply can’t be done by job matching at a desk) and sometimes work experience placements can convert to a paid opportunity! Work experience should be just that and not the end result. 

Building strong partnerships and relationships with employers is essential - no employers, no job outcomes. I genuinely believe that most employers want to do the ‘right thing’ but are unsure how. Their concerns can range from understanding disability etiquette and language, or the practical application of legislative requirements (such as the Equality Act 2010), to understanding their duties around reasonable adjustments etc. 

I mentioned earlier about bridging the gaps for jobseekers and essentially this should apply to employers. Basically, what’s in it for the employer? There are many benefits for an employer to engage in a supported employment service. I will always remember what a HR manager of a large retail company once said to me; “Nic, employing people that represent all parts of society is good for my business.” 

On and off the job support: Whether you have a disability or not, we all need support when we start a new job and ongoing support to enable us to develop and progress in our role. There are many elements to in-work support (eg. learning the role, understanding the company, the culture of the organisation, maintaining/stabilisation and fading support etc.). Unfortunately, there are far too many to cover in this blog, However, there are a few fundamentals I would like to mention: 

  • Teaching someone to perform practical tasks is different to teaching someone in an academic environment. In an academic setting there is usually a bench mark eg. you pass a test/exam if you achieve 80 per cent, however practical tasks that form part of the learners employment, need to be performed correctly 100 per cent of the time! Therefore, we must identify and train to the employer’s methods and standards.
  • The use of natural supports, and by this I mean co-workers should always be encouraged, although we often know that there can often be a ‘gap’ in what is provided by the employer to what is required by the learner. Supported employment services can help ‘bridge the gap’ by providing ongoing practical, advice and guidance around potential adaptations/reasonable adjustments and legislation etc. If  learning isn’t taking place using the employer’s method, you may need to ‘try another way’ and deliver training using systematic instruction (TSI). 
  • Avoid visiting the person you are supporting without good reason. This will help when you start fading out your support. Don’t forget to tailor your support to meet the needs of both the employer and employee.
  • And finally, in-work support should always ensure the individual you are supporting is recognised for their ability (skills) in the workplace and not their disability.

Recently, I have seen an increase in supported employment/internship providers. For example, North Yorkshire County Council have been investing in their employees’ development around all the five steps of supported employment. It’s vital to delivering employment outcomes for their service users/students which is encouraging and something I hope will continue.

Thank you for reading my blog, if you would like to learn more about our supported employment, mental health or other disability related training offers, visit our website Remploy Training

About Nic
During my 16 year career with Remploy, I have had a range of roles, including working directly with people with disabilities to support them into employment and supporting my colleagues, employers and stakeholders. I have a wealth of experience and expertise in disability and employment, in particular mental health and neurodiverse conditions. 

I have for many years provided consultancy and training to organisations across all sectors in building disability and mental health confidence in the workplace to deliver improvements to attraction, recruitment, employment and retention processes.

I am a Training Accredited Practitioner (TAP) in Training Delivery and E-Learning Design, and also accredited to deliver Training in Systematic Instruction, NVQ Assessor (ESS) and a Mental Health First Aid accredited instructor. I am also involved in the design and delivery of disability-related training as well as developing and delivering bespoke training solutions for The Education and Training Foundation (ETF) and North Yorkshire County Council (Supported Employment). 
You may also be interested in reading our previous blogs on supported employment, part one & part two.