What do you think?
- Is it easy to find the back-to-work help you need?
- Is one organisation going to have all the answers?
- Is local partnership working the answer to halving the number of disabled people out of work?
When I had to leave the Navy back in 1999 due to my eyes failing, the biggest problem I faced was not knowing where I could get help about getting another job. I talked to some of the ex-Service charities but they were pretty hopeless – I remember one who seemed to think that giving me lunch was the answer and another who thought I could become a library researcher (clearly hadn’t made the connection between blindness and reading books!). I’m sure that things are rather better now. But, with most people getting long-term health conditions/disabilities during their working lives, I suspect that there are still lots who have unexpectedly had to stop work and had no idea about where to turn. Jobcentres can be a starting point but aren’t always interested unless one is also wanting to claim benefits. And many would want to avoid them anyway. Back in 200, I did write to the Department for Work and Pensions trying to get them interested in developing a way of providing people like me with the information to get back to work (and how to generally manage life with a new impairment) – but rather a dusty response.
So you can imagine how pleased I was to be commissioned to create the Help to Work directory in 2010. Although it was mainly limited to one Local Authority District, it was a starting point. I think that they originally envisaged that the directory would only cover the organisations that specialise in helping disabled people – whereas there are lots more non-specialists providers – and including them makes the directory useful for anyone. And we extended the information so that it starts to consider all those aspects of life that can make work impossible if not resolved: housing, finances, travel, managing your health and family relationships. I’m sure that there’s more!
Of course, I didn’t do all of this by myself: there are now nearly 50 organisations in the directory that all provide free support to get people in to jobs or self-employment. The whole thrust is that it will be rare for one organisation to be able to provide expert help on every aspect of getting back to work for people facing lots of problems (and employer prejudice) – but working as a partnership, several organisations can make the difference.
We put lots of effort in to linking up the different providers so that they knew where to get extra assistance for the people they were helping. And ran lots of workshops so that everyone learned more about disabled people and the problems they can face. And I sent them all regular e-shots with local job vacancies and apprenticeships, partners’ services and the latest news from Government.
The third round of funding has just expired and you can read the final evaluation report here.
Perhaps this could work in your own area – especially as there are more moves to deliver employment support more locally. If I can help, share experience or offer any ideas, just drop me an e-mail (penny@Laylands.co.uk) or ring me on 01329 841814.
Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk
Helping disabled people to work since 2000