Supporting young people with disabilities into employment – Part 3

Part 3: Creating long-term successes!

Welcome to United Response’s third and final blog about supporting young people with disabilities into work. I hope you have enjoyed reading the previous 2 blogs; this final edition talks you though the last 2 stages of the process:

  • Step 5. Learn and review
  • Step 6. In work support & working with employers

For me, this edition is all about sustainability and focusing on long-term success. The blog aims to answer three important questions: How do we support the young person to develop into their role? How do we support employers? How do we create an integrated workforce?

How do we support the young person to develop into their role?

Once a young person has found employment, it is then our job to work alongside the employer to help develop that individual into their new role.

When we start new work placements we set up a Learning Log for the young person. The Learning Log measures steps towards completing a specific task. They are very useful to show the employer which techniques/ methods work. The Learning Log takes into account:

  • What the person did?
  • Who was there?
  • What did they learn?
  • What next?

The first 3-6 months are often the most challenging for any new employee. There are new environments, expectations and systems to get used to. It can be very difficult; even more challenging if you have a learning disability or autism. During the first 3-6 months of the work placement we would aim for around 3 in-work reviews with the employer and employee.

It is part of our role to understand how the individual is settling in, what the ongoing challenges are and how to support the young person and employer to overcome any barriers. There a number of simple, person-centred reviewing tools that you can you use to help you facilitate a review meeting:

  • Working/Not Working: This is the simplest but arguably the most effective tool. With the employer and the young people ask them to draw 2 columns of ‘what’s working well’ and ‘what’s not working well’. During the review meeting, you can compare and contrast their views and facilitate solutions to reduce the ‘not working’ column.
  • 4 + 1 Questions: This tool asks 5 questions in total and can be used with or instead of the tool above. It includes: What have we tried? What have we learnt? What are we pleased about? What are we concerned about? The plus one question is then: What Next?

Once the reviewing process is complete, there will come a point where it is necessary to start reducing your job coach support. We develop a support reduction plan, agreed by all parties, that looks at how our support will be replaced by natural forms i.e. colleagues/buddy systems.

How do we support employers?

Communicate, communicate, communicate!

It is important to remember that in some cases this will be the first time the employer has recruited a disabled colleague. There will be a support role that the employer will need from you as well as the young person. Effective communication with the employer throughout the induction period is crucial to long-term success.

During the first few months we spend a long time getting to know the employers’ needs, issues and priorities. We look at what additional support they would need to help the individual succeed in their business.

Employers can be worried that supporting people with disabilities is expensive. It’s not! Yes, there may be reasonable adjustments to be made or perhaps some additional training but did you know there is funding for that!?

Hopefully you have heard of the Access to Work scheme but if not, you will not be alone! Access to Work is a government funding programme to support employers to make reasonable adjustments in the work place.

As long as the young person is in a paid job, or about to start one, then you as a job coach on behalf of the employer can apply for access to work. It will cover costs for:

  • Special equipment
  • Adaptations
  • Support Workers
  • Help getting to and from work (transport)

For more information about access to work, follow this link: https://www.gov.uk/access-to-work

We have used Access to Work to fund Job Coach positions as well as supporting people with travel training.

Good employer relationships also mean investment in longer-term engagement. For example, we have been delivering supported employment services in Trafford for over 13 years. And even now, some employers and employees that we have supported over 10 years ago still give us the odd phone call for a little bit of advice or guidance. This isn’t time consuming for us and it helps improve retention.

How do we create an integrated workforce?

For many of us, a job is much more than a job. Did you know that 70% of us say that friends at work are the most crucial element to a happy work life? Or that 1 in 3 of us have met our best friend at work? Yes, relationships at work are essential.

Creating new job opportunities for people with disabilities has got to be more than just work. We need to support people to be included, to make friends and join social activities otherwise work can be quite lonely place.

Daniel, is a young man we supported in Manchester. We successfully supported him to find a job within the Facilities Team within a large shopping centre. Daniel wanted to socialise more with his colleagues but didn’t know where to start. We supported him to ask his colleagues what social events he could join. They told us that there was a monthly pub night he could go to and also that they have a football team that played in the local league. Daniel quickly joined the footy team followed by a pint in the pub with colleagues!

At work, Daniel’s manager suggested he should join the online employee chat forum. Daniel wasn’t confident on computers so we helped him sign up to a local IT course to develop those skills.

Daniel has now moved from being merely present in the workplace to being fully integrated with friends he meets outside of his job. A real success story!

I hope that over the last 4 weeks, we have been able to demonstrate that young people, regardless of their disability, can move closer to employment. It can be a difficult process and we have suffered many knockbacks from employers but the success stories speak for themselves.

With the right attitude, approach and support hopefully together we can swing that 7% to a much higher number of people with disabilities in employment.

For any queries or resources please contact: get.support@unitedresponse.org.uk

About the Author

Amie Dobinson is currently Development Manager for United Response, a national learning disability charity. She is a Law graduate with post-graduate qualifications in Development Management. Amie has been working for United Response for the past 7 years in various development roles across the North of England. Her passion is to ensure that young people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else and that young people are supported to progress and to be included.

About the Charity

United Response is a national charity set up in 1973 to provide person-centred support to adults and young people with learning disabilities, mental health needs, physical disabilities and autism. We now support over 3000 people across England and Wales in a range of community-based settings including supported employment services.  Our vision is a society where everyone has equal rights and opportunities. Our mission is to ensure that individuals with learning disabilities, mental or physical support needs have the opportunity to live their lives to the full. You can find out more on our website www.unitedresponse.org.uk  and Twitter @UnitedResponse