A pan-London disabled people’s organisation (DPO) has been given the chance to test “exciting” and “important” approaches to supporting young disabled people into work that reflect the social model of disability, after securing more than £750,000 in funding.
Inclusion London has been awarded £775,000 over five years by the City Bridge Trust, which funds charities on behalf of the City of London Corporation, as part of a new £3.3 million Bridge To Work fund set up to support more young disabled people into employment.
Inclusion London said the grant will allow it to “test and pilot and evaluate” models of employment support that reflect the ethos and values of DPOs and the social model of disability, in contrast with the unsuccessful approaches of large government contractors that have previously secured funding through the Work Programme and Work Choice.
Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said there was frustration that DPOs had not previously been funded for such work.
She said: “You have a whole set of practices around mainstream employment support that just aren’t working and all the evidence shows that the success rates are so tiny… whichever way you look at it, the current approaches are not delivering.”
She pointed to the “perverse incentives” for employment support providers not to work with disabled people perceived as being harder to find jobs, and the “non-social model understanding about what the barriers in the workplace really are”.
She added: “That’s what was really frustrating in the government’s [work, health and disability] green paper, apart from all the really devious stuff, was just that it’s kind of going to be business as usual in terms of delivery models but with a lot less money, and that’s just not going to work.
“It’s shocking but it’s not surprising.”
She said DPOs had been excluded from the big government employment support contracts, although most of them would not want to bid for such contracts anyway because of the “whole range of mandatory and devious practices” they impose on out-of-work benefit claimants, such as the use of sanctioning disabled people’s benefits.
Lazard said: “It is pretty shocking that there’s not any evidence of any real commitment to look again at models of employment support, because they are not working.
“So this is an opportunity and City Bridge Trust are a great funder and they understand that this is strategic, long term structural work which is why I think there is five years of funding.”
Inclusion London will work closely with Action on Disability (AoD), a user-led organisation based in Hammersmith and Fulham, and plans to develop some of the “innovative” work AoD has been doing to support disabled people into work.
One of the models they will be developing is an AoD internship scheme, which has worked with people with learning difficulties who were previously “trapped in the revolving door of classroom based support” and has seen as many as 70 per cent of those taking part securing jobs.
The aim is to identify job vacancies that a large employer is finding difficult to fill, find a young disabled person from a local college to fill those positions, and then provide “really quite high levels of ‘in situ’ job support”, using college and Access to Work funding.
Action on Disability has been focusing its work on young people with learning difficulties, so one of Inclusion London’s aims is to expand that to other groups.
Inclusion London will now aim to recruit five other London DPOs to work with this and other employment support models, providing those user-led organisations with the support they need to build their own capacity.
Another support model will be to target small and medium-sized employers along a local high street, again providing high levels of support when the young person is in post.
Inclusion London will also be trialling different ways that young disabled people can approach job-seeking, including direct approaches to a potential employer, even targeting the chief executive.
There is also funding through the grant to train other DPOs in skills and approaches and tips that they can pass on to their members and service-users, and to work with public sector employers such as the NHS to open up their job opportunities to young disabled people.
Through the five years, Inclusion London hopes to build evidence of what approaches work and share those conclusions with other organisations and the government.
The Bridge To Work programme aims to use learning from the projects it is funding – including Inclusion London’s – to “better inform government and other funders” in how to support more disabled people into work.
Other disability organisations awarded grants from the fund are Action for Kids (£250,000), the National Autistic Society (£199,000), Muscular Dystrophy UK (£276,000), Mencap (£350,000) and Whizz-Kidz (£384,000).
In addition to the funding for the six organisations, there is a separate pot of more than £500,000 to support paid work experience and internships for young disabled Londoners in charities and the private sector, focusing on small and medium-sized enterprises.
Jack McLellan (pictured), who has benefited from Muscular Dystrophy UK’s Moving Up programme, which has previously received funding from the trust and will now see that support continued for another five years, said: “I was so disheartened when I first tried to find work after university that I needed a real boost to my confidence and skills to get on the right track.
“The Moving Up programme helped me gain experience, try out new roles and get that crucial break of a first job.
“I hope this new support means lots more young people are given the same chance to show their worth.”
Alison Gowman, who chairs the City Bridge Trust committee, said: “We are certain this new programme will really transform lives of young disabled people.
“The charities we are funding will give employers the support, skills and resources they need to increase opportunities for disabled people.
“The programme has a wider mission and is looking to influence policy in this area and make real long-term change for the disabled community.”