Saturday , 25 March 2017
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Charity receives major funding to help people into work

bbophoto1£156,000 awarded by the Big Lottery Fund and European Social Fund

The statistics speak for themselves – around 6 per cent of people with a learning disability are in paid employment, despite more than 60 per cent wanting and being able to be in work.

Those figures come from Mencap, looking at the picture across the UK.

Across Warwickshire and Worcestershire, Heart of England Mencap currently supports 233 people living with a learning disability – and just 5 are in paid employment.

The charity is now launching two brand new two-and-a-half year projects which will support the most disadvantaged people into work.

Heart of England Mencap has received £156,000 in funding thanks to Building Better Opportunities – a multi-million programme funded by the European Social Fund and the Big Lottery Fund to tackle poverty and social exclusion faced by the most disadvantaged people in England.

It means HofE Mencap can now work with other partners to improve opportunities for people with learning disabilities in both the Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick districts.

Two projects will be run. The first is Accelerate, in conjunction with Coventry and Warwickshire CDA (Co-operative Development Agency) and working with those over 25. The second is Progress, in conjunction with Groundwork UK and working with under 25s. HofE Mencap received £76,000 for Accelerate, with a further £80,000 for Progress.

Two new members of staff have now joined the charity, funded through the projects.

Helen Cleminson joins as Employment Journey Guide, while Nikki Hillard joins as Progress Coach.

Both will be working every Monday and Friday out of the ‘Job Pod’ at Stratford-upon-Avon College.

bbophoto4There they will work with local people with learning disabilities to get them employment ready – helping find volunteering opportunities and work experience placements, identifying and improving skills, providing support with CVs and interviews, and searching for job opportunities.

The aim is to work with 80 people in total – identifying those in need of support, either from inside or outside of the Heart of England Mencap.

One key element will be communication with schools and colleges across both Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick districts, helping disadvantaged people soon to leave education.

Helena Wallis, Chief Executive of Heart of England Mencap, said:

“This can be one of the most challenging times. When people have been in education for a long time and then face leaving, with nothing to go to.

“The number of people with learning disabilities in paid-work or even benefitting from work experience is shockingly low and that needs to change. Everyone wants a meaningful job – and people with a learning disability should have that opportunity too. This project is about overcoming the barriers to employment which exist for many local people within our community, developing each participants’ skills and training enabling and empowering them to be work ready.”

Accelerate and Progress are launching this week to coincide with national Learning Disability Work Experience Week (running November 7 -12).

Mencap’s vision is a future where people with a learning disability are receiving the right support to access and stay in work.

According to the charity, the many barriers faced by people with learning disability to access employment include:

  • a lack of good quality support to get and maintain employment
  • a lack of support to build confidence and skills
  • employers’ attitudes
  • lack of understanding as to what people with a learning disability can do with the right support.

Heart of England Mencap is very keen to talk to friendly local employers who may be able to offer suitable work experience and job opportunities. Advice and support would be given by the Job Coaches to help make the placements a success.

For more information on getting iinvolved with any aspect of the projects, please contact Helen Cleminson on 07949 304626 or email hcleminson@heartofenglandmencap.org.uk or Nikki Hillard on 07398 851215 or email nhillard@heartofenglandmencap.org.uk.