Community-based day activities and supports for people with learning disabilities

10 key tasks - Key task 7: Supporting people into paid work

Important things for care managers and care coordinators to do

Work and benefits can go well together!

Having a good day found supported employment services that had helped people with learning disabilities into jobs where they are working over 16 hours a week - and gaining the financial advantages of tax credits and Access to Work. They were better off than when they were just on benefits.

Important things for managers and staff in social firms to do

Important things for staff supporting people in community-based activities to do

Important things for commissioners and managers to do

They should also include targets about the number of people with learning disabilities employed in local public sector organisations, linking into disability equality schemes locally. It’s also important to ensure that targets are set for people with higher support needs.

Employment support for people with direct payments

How is your local area doing?

  • Are there lists of local workers with specific employment skills?
  • Can people purchase individualised support from supported employment agencies locally?
  • Have supported employment agencies set hourly rates at which they can sell support?
  • Can personal assistants link into agencies for advice and training?
  • Do support planners and brokers have good knowledge of supported employment agencies and approaches? Do they know what they should be looking for?
  • Are there information packs available about people’s rights in relation to employment support, local agencies etc?

Practice examples

Tuck by Truck is a social firm supported by MCCH Society Ltd. It supplies 'usherette style’ snack trays to businesses throughout Kent from bases in Herne Bay, Aylesford and Dartford. A tray of confectionery and crisps is delivered to the customer with a cash box. Tuck by Truck will visit weekly or fortnightly to replace the box and reconcile the cash against sales. There are three tray selections to choose from, varying in size and content. It is a simple way for an employer to ensure that staff can buy snacks on site without the frustration of vending machine breakdowns. Profits from sales ensure that the delivery assistants are paid the national minimum wage for each delivery shift. Employers have used their support for Tuck by Truck as evidence towards Charter Mark status.

An example of a micro-enterprise It was suggested by a day centre that two young women could set up a micro-enterprise together. They both have very severe physical impairments and communication difficulties, and at first it was far from clear what sort of business would be right for them. But time spent getting to know their interests revealed that they really liked bright colours, and anything to do with parties and celebrations. They bought a special machine, second-hand, which packs novelty objects (ranging from soft toys to fluffy handcuffs) inside a balloon, to make novelty gifts. These are sold through local shops. The two women choose the novelty objects, and choose well. It was Valentine's Day a few months after they started the business, and they were swamped with orders.(This is one example of a successful micro-enterprise; there are others on the National Development Team website)

Bizmatch Ltd is the trading arm of Workmatch Ltd and was set up in 2006. Workmatch meanwhile, was formed as a charitable company, limited by guarantee in 1995. It was formerly the employment preparation unit for Herefordshire social services working predominantly with people with a learning disability. The aims and objectives of this new organisation were to broaden its client base to encompass all disabled and disadvantaged people and to generate alternative funds through its charitable status and through trading. Workmatch creates work experience and employment opportunities for disadvantaged people through its social enterprises. It currently runs four business activities across four locations covering Herefordshire and parts of Worcestershire, as follows:

Bizmatch encompasses four of Workmatch’s businesses:

Bizmatch has its own constitution, board of directors, payroll and banking facilities. It is a Not-for-Profit company with trading surpluses being gift aided to Workmatch at the end of each accounting period. Across the four Bizmatch businesses plus a disability information service that it runs, Workmatch now employs 26 staff of whom eight are full-time and the remainder work a minimum of 16 hours per week. Eleven employees (of whom five are full time) are people with 'long term’ disabilities. Disabled staff fill positions from senior management to operator level. Workmatch is governed by a board of five trustees of whom two have long term disabilities.

At the start of 2000, some five years after its inception, Workmatch had a turnover of around £100,000 of which 65% came from statutory funding and around £15,000 was trading income. Bizmatch Ltd budget for 2006-2007 is £320,000 of which £200,000 will be from direct trading and contract services. Funding from statutory services now accounts for less than 15% of total income.

Workmatch has maintained the Investors in People accreditation since 2002. It has also achieved ISO 9001 EN since 2001, and Community Legal Service accreditation in 2004 (the first charitable company to achieve this in the West Midlands). Workmatch has twice won a Remploy 'Leading the Way’ award (2004 and 2005) for its work in helping disabled people to achieve employment and REGARD won a regional social enterprise of the year award in 2003.

Says Workmatch Chief Executive, Geoff Tunstall,

Our staff are drawn from all sectors of the community. The single most important quality we are looking for is that they have something to prove, whether it be due to a lack of training opportunities when they were younger, disability, or from being prematurely excluded from employment. It is this hunger to succeed allied to a fully integrated workforce that has helped Workmatch (and Bizmatch) to move forward. We’ve succeeded due to hard work and 24/7 commitment. We’ve also never been complacent and have always been prepared to restructure when necessary. After five years of hard work we are proud to have four businesses, providing excellent products and services which are creating excellent jobs.’

For more information see: Workmatch

Pack-IT Product Promotions was established in 1988 as a small enterprise carrying out light industrial packing services. It is now a thriving three-pronged business supplying mailing, storage & distribution and on-line fulfilment, with an enviable reputation as a fast turn-around specialist. It also provides specialised finishing services such as subscription fulfillment and cross matching of short-run hand mailings, full web-based real time stock control facilities and customer services capabilities. Pack-IT was originally set up by Cardiff City Council to provide training opportunities and permanent paid employment for people with learning disabilities. However, the organisation is now the only example in the country of a Social Firm that has been successfully externalised from its local authority. As a Social Firm and community business, Pack-IT employs 21 staff, half of whom have Down's Syndrome, are profoundly deaf or have behavioural and learning difficulties. Yet everyone at Pack-IT is paid above market rates and works full-time.

This committed, long-serving workforce has played a vital part in the business's success story. Since John Bennet joined as Manager in 1994 turnover has increased from £70,000 to £1.2m in 2003. Accrued profits stand at £121,000 and these are ploughed back into the business and invested in people and machinery.

In 2005 Pack-IT won The European Social Firm of the Year Award. In 2003 it also won the UK Social Enterprise Award for 'Enterprising Solutions’, a DTI-sponsored award celebrating the success, innovation, and unique nature of businesses that display both entrepreneurial flair and a commitment to social change.

Says John:

I am proud of the unique tag that Pack-IT carries and equally proud of the staff that are fully involved in the day-to-day business that Pack-IT is. However, I want all businesses and organisations with whom we work to recognise that while we are firmly committed to the principles of Social Firms and social enterprise, that commitment shouldn't detract from the fact that we are a commercial business in our own right. Sixteen years on, evidence is that we are in it for the long haul. Pack-IT wants to be judged by the success of the business that it carries out, not by the people it employs.’

For more information visit: Pack-IT

Linkage Green in Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire, is a social enterprise where between seven and ten people are supported to work each day taking care of a county class bowling green and café. The business runs seven days a week. The majority of the people have high support needs. They match people’s interest and skills to tasks. One person, for example, works as a 'table supplies controller’, filling condiments for one hour a day, three days a week, paid at the national minimum wage.

In Norfolk a partnership between the Learning and Skills Council, the local authority and Norwich City College has led to an initiative to develop social firms and social enterprises. A community interest company is being set up which can raise shares and capital investment. As well as work to generate new social firms there has been a course for people with learning disabilities about micro-enterprise. Learning Disability Development Fund money amounting to £5,000 has been used to offer start-up grants of up to £500 each for up to 10 people. So far, four people have received this support - a musical entertainer, a market stallholder selling children’s clothes, an Ebay art emporium and a dog-walking service.

In Poole, Dorset, a formal partnership has been developed between the Borough of Poole’s adult services and the local job centre. Two staff from the supported employment team are now based at the Job Centre alongside other mainstream employment staff.

The Brandon Trust in Bristol operates an individualised service that supports people to go out and do things they choose. One person had used her supporter to help her to go to bingo She then developed an interest in bingo-calling. She now has a paid job bingo calling once a week, and her supporter goes along with her.

Links and resources

Other helpful publications:

Other useful websites: