Supporting young people with disabilities into employment – Part 1

Part 1 – An introduction to supported employment.

Did you know that less than 7% of adults with a learning disability are in paid employment even though over 65% want a job? These statistics reflect the huge gap between the ambition of young people with disabilities and their reality.

This is our first in a series of blogs by United Response focusing on how you can help young people, regardless of disability, move closer to either paid work, self-employment, volunteering or social enterprises. United Response is a national disability charity supporting over 2000 adults to have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

Our three blogs will outline the practical and the ‘right now’ steps you can take to help someone you support or teach move closed to paid work (we will be highlighting our own successes and failures along the way too).

Each of our 3 blogs will cover 2 steps of our 6 stage guide below:

  • Step 1. Getting to know you
  • Step 2: Building skills and confidence
  • Step 3. Finding the right job
  • Step 4. Work trials & experience
  • Step 5. Learn and review
  • Step 6. In work support & working with employers

At the end of the series we will provide links to useful resources and tools.

Step 1: Getting to know the individual

Step 1 is the start of developing an Employment Profile which will identify the young person’s needs, goals, wishes and aspirations for the future. At this stage you are building a clear picture of the young person so you can look at how best to support them through each stage. Our starting point is that everyone can work with the right support. If we start with that in mind then we don’t block potential opportunities.

As a guide, the questions to ask may include:

  • What does that person want to achieve?
  • What is important to and important for them?
  • What do others like and admire about them?
  • What communication methods do we need to use?
  • What support needs do we need to be aware of? (i.e. risks, behaviour, sensory)
  • What are their life experiences to date? (i.e. previous work, education, activities)
  • What does their weekly diary look like?

In the past, we have struggled to move young people into employment when families and/or carers haven’t been involved or supportive. It is important that you don’t do this alone. By using a ‘Relationship Circle’ you can start to identify who is in that person’s life and who can support them (and you) on their employment journey.

Step 2: Building Skills and Confidence

In many cases, you will be working with young adults who have never had a job or work experience before. Getting your first job, as you may remember, can be exciting but equally very scary! For a young adult with disabilities there can be a number of additional barriers to overcome. Some of the challenges people we support face include:

  • Lack of confidence
  • Not having the right skills or qualifications
  • Employer attitudes to disability
  • Travelling to and from work
  • Inaccessible application processes

As a job coach or a supporter, it is important to really understand those barriers and work with the young person to identify personal solutions.

Once you have identified the barriers, have a think about the skills and assets the young person has to offer. We use a skills assessment tool which identifies level of independence around specific work-related tasks. We use a sliding scale to assess the level of independence from ‘can do this on my own’ to ‘requiring 1:1 support’.

The skills assessment tool looks at the three ‘P’s’: physical skills (walking, hearing, memory), personal skills (motivated, judgement, initiative) and practical skills (IT, communication, numbers). Through assessing skills we begin to understand not only what type of job the individual can do but also what support we need to offer to help them succeed in that position.

Confidence is a huge part of getting a job. If we are not confident then we are not motivated and small steps become big hurdles. Building confidence is not a one-off; it is a long process that takes time and encouragement.

When working with your young person, always think about how you can build their self-esteem, resilience and motivation to work. Here at United Response we run peer-led confidence workshops as part of our job club model as well as working on personal issues on a 1:1 basis.

Some of the confidence topics you could consider include:

  • Understand what confidence is
  • Making a positive impression (inc. appearance)
  • Understanding anxiety and developing coping mechanisms
  • Strengthening communication and decision-making
  • Positive affirmation
  • Building on the skills assessment
  • Set confidence goals that the young person can work towards

As we have reached the end of the first blog, here is a quick recap of the key points:

  1. Anyone can move closer to employment with the right support
  2. Getting to know the individual and their family is the starting point
  3. Spend time really getting to know the barriers and finding person-centred solutions

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  and Twitter @UnitedResponse