Community-based day activities and supports for people with learning disabilities
Key task 7 - Supported employment: what works?
(adapted from the British Association of Supported Employment)
A focus on individuals - The emphasis is on finding out what each person wants to do and where his or her talents lie. The person is then introduced to an employment opportunity which matches his or her work profile.
Long-term commitment - Ongoing support is provided to help each person get and keep a job to the employers satisfaction. The focus is on exploring all options until success is achieved. This support is not time limited and should include assistance for job advancement or job change as well as an initial induction into the workplace and its culture.
Full participation - The assumption is that all persons have the capacity to work if appropriate, ongoing support can be provided. Anyone who is old enough and wants to work can.
Varied and flexible support - Support should be creative, flexible and shared with employers. In short, whatever works! Support can come from service professionals, self-advocacy groups, co-workers, managers, supervisors and/or home networks. The emphasis is ultimately on the provision of support by colleagues and other natural networks with, if necessary, support service back-up. Support is available to gain a relevant qualification if desired and/or necessary.
Social inclusion - Supported employment takes place in integrated settings, and the emphasis is on contacts and relationships with people without disabilities who are not paid carers. The focus is on introductions to work colleagues and their involvement in people's lives: during lunchtimes or breaks, and during non-work hours as a result of relationships made and wages earned.
Real jobs - Employment should only be considered if the job is a real one, i.e. would otherwise be done by a non-disabled worker. Their main purpose must be to offer goods and/or services (not simulated employment). Key considerations are wages, pay intervals, and methods of payment at the going rate for the job; safe working conditions; hours similar to other employees; job security and opportunities for advancement. If the job is unpaid, then it must be time limited with a commitment from the employer to provide a fair wage at a set date.
Not services - The focus is on creating opportunities to work and training on the job rather than preparation for a job some time in the future. Separate skill development services do not meet this definition.
Choice and development - Supported employment represents a wide range of jobs in the community and opportunities to leave one job for another. Job advancement opportunities are available. Individuals and their families are given informed choices about job conditions and 'better off calculations’ regarding benefits/tax credits should be undertaken. Once in paid work, it is essential that agencies ensure people secure funding from Access to Work.
What returns? - Research has shown that each employment worker within an agency using the above approaches can expect to support five (or more) people with learning disabilities into paid work per year.
Improving work opportunities for people with a learning disability
Summary of conclusions - People with learning disabilities are citizens first and foremost, and public services, together with the private sector, need to respond appropriately. This means:
- effective 'person-centred planning’ is critical, rather than fitting people into what is available;
- considering pooled, and preferably ring-fenced budgets; committed long- term funding is essential to the viability and success of supported employment agencies
- further education colleges should give greater emphasis within their courses to employment outcomes for people with learning disabilities, rather than just qualifications.
- Entry to Employment Programmes need to ensure that providers offer opportunities to all learners, including those unlikely to achieve NVQ Level 2.
- provide joint training of staff from the different services to help in fostering relationships and improving understanding of each other’s work.
- Learning Disability Partnership Boards (LDPBs) should continue to actively promote the employment agenda for people with learning disabilities at the local level, in conjunction with Local Strategic Partnerships and local authorities.
- the effectiveness of pre-vocational training in supporting this group is arguable.
- there should be more publicity about the fact that there is no lower hours limit on applications for Access to Work (AtW).
- engaging and supporting employers is a fundamental element to any attempt to improve employment provision for people with learning disabilities.
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