How Achieve Together Helps Disabled And Neurodivergent People Open Doors To Employment

How Achieve Together Helps Disabled And Neurodivergent People Open Doors To Employment

Achieve together’s care homes and other services enable people with physical and mental health needs to become more independent. There are many ways that Achieve together supports these individuals, including guiding them into employment. Achieve together works with many people to help them land paid and voluntary roles.

The organisation’s mission is to help everyone it supports reach their full potential. If someone wants to learn, volunteer or work, Achieve together supports them so they can realise their goals.

Awareness Of Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Awareness of diversity and inclusion in the workplace is growing. As a result, many employers proactively employ neurodivergent and disabled people. In the third quarter of 2022, there were nearly five million disabled people in employment in the UK. This is two million more people than in the same quarter in 2013.

As knowledge around diversity and inclusion improves, there is now often more support available to employees who have specific needs. Employers may also be more likely to have a greater understanding of these needs and how to support employees.

However, there is still work to do. Despite these improvements, autistic people and people with learning disabilities still face inequality in employment.

Although the number of disabled people in employment has risen over the past decade, the disability employment rate was only 52.6% in quarter three of 2022. By comparison, the employment rate for non-disabled people was 82.5%.

Meanwhile, only 22% of autistic adults are in paid employment. And only 4.8% of adults with learning disabilities are in employment.

Achieve together is working to increase the number of people it supports who access employment and contribute to their local community.

The Benefits of Working

Working, whether in a paid or voluntary capacity, can lead to many benefits. Working can:

  • Improve an individual’s mental and physical health.
  • Build an individual’s social connections and support networks.
  • Develop an individual’s self-esteem, identity, and sense of achievement.
  • Provide challenges and opportunities that stimulate an individual.
  • Create a sense of belonging and purpose for an individual.
  • Help an individual improve their skills, independence, and confidence.
  • Set an individual on a path of ongoing career development.
  • Present an individual with opportunities to get involved with, and contribute to, a community.

These benefits of employment fulfil many aspects of Achieve together’s Wheel of Engagement Person-Centred Framework. The Wheel of Engagement lays out ways that individuals can improve their personal safety and spiritual, physical, and mental wellbeing.

Achieve together, Unity and Campaign 4 Change host a podcast about the Wheel of Engagement.

Working And Receiving Benefits

Some people may worry that getting a job will stop them from receiving benefits. However, this isn’t always the case. Depending on the benefits an individual is entitled to, they may be able to undertake a certain number of hours of work before their benefit payments decrease.

If an individual is considering training, volunteering or paid work opportunities, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) can provide information about whether these opportunities could impact their benefit entitlement.

Knowing Whether Employment Is the Right Route

Employment may be ideal for some, but not for others. An individual’s goals should inform whether employment is a good route for them.

Rather than moving straight into employment, an individual may start small with a meaningful project, perhaps one that benefits the environment or local community. The individual may feel that this project is enough for them, or they may prefer to move on to a more substantial role.

Either way, work opportunities may appeal to someone who has never considered working or been given an opportunity to do so before. It’s never too late to start.

Achieve together emphasises that anyone can work if they want to, regardless of their disabilities. The organisation focuses on each person’s strengths, interests, and talents. With these in mind, Achieve together supports the person to help them find good-fit opportunities, support and, if necessary, reasonable adjustments.

How Achieve together Supports Individuals Into Employment

Achieve together follows 12 steps to support people into employment:

  1. Work with the individual to discuss their aspirations and identify the steps they need to take to fulfil these aspirations.
  2. Take the individual’s work experience into account, considering whether they have worked or volunteered before.
  3. Find any training courses that would help the individual develop the skills they need for their desired work.
  4. Explore volunteering or paid job opportunities that match the individual’s criteria.
  5. Seek local services, such as supported employment services, that could help the individual transition into work.
  6. Consider online resources or organisations that may be able to help the individual access paid or volunteer opportunities.
  7. Offer to help the individual practise for interviews.
  8. Check whether the individual needs any assistance with work duties via the government’s Access to Work scheme. The Access to Work scheme is a government employment support programme that helps disabled people secure and remain in work. The scheme provides practical and financial support based on an individual’s needs.
  9. Note any reasonable adjustments the individual may need to help them gain and keep a job.
  10. Speak to the council to check whether the individual can undertake a funded supported internship. These internships help bridge the gap between education and work. They are for individuals who are under 25 years old.
  11. Check whether employment or training could affect the individual’s benefit entitlement.
  12. Support the individual as they review, update, or create a CV.

Achieve together’s Co-production and Employment Partner Stephen Brown leads this process. He works with individuals and their support teams to identify and secure ideal employment opportunities.

Organisations That Achieve together Works With to Create Employment Opportunities

Campaign 4 Change and Unity work with Achieve together to support many individuals into work.

Campaign 4 Change is a self-advocacy group. The group represents the rights and views of autistic people and people who have learning disabilities across the nation. Members receive payments for their work, which may include presenting to board members or taking part in events like the Learning Disability England conference.

On the other hand, Unity is a co-production group of people Achieve together support. These people also receive payments for their work. The individuals help with Driving Up Quality events and recruitment events. They also produce and refine company policies, procedures, and documentation.

For example, one project involved members reviewing the recruitment procedure to ensure people Achieve together support are always included in hiring decisions when the organisation recruits new team members.

Reasonable Adjustments a Person May Be Eligible For

Under the Equality Act (2010), individuals who have disabilities can request reasonable adjustments to make work environments and tasks more accommodating.

During the job application and interview process, they may request:

  • A different interview time.
  • More time to complete assessments.
  • Larger screens or large-print documents.
  • A verbal test instead of a written one.

They may also request the following support for their work:

  • Flexible or adjusted working hours.
  • Environmental changes, e.g. dimmed lights.
  • Extra or specialist equipment.
  • Additional help, e.g. from an assistant or sign language interpreter.

Usually, the employer funds reasonable adjustments. If an employer refuses to make reasonable adjustments, they could be discriminating against the individual.

However, sometimes, the Access to Work scheme funds reasonable adjustments. For example, the Access to Work scheme may provide a sign language interpreter at an interview, a job coach for an individual who has a learning difficulty, specialist equipment or taxi fares where public transport isn’t an option.

How Achieve together Works With the Government to Improve Employment Opportunities for Disabled Adults

In 2021, Achieve together met with the Shadow Disability Minister. The organisation shared its vision to advocate for employment-related policy issues on behalf of people Achieve together support.

Achieve together also hosted a positive meeting with the Secretary of State for Disability and approached the Minister of State for Disabled People, Health, and Work.

In the same year, the DWP published The Health and Disability Green Paper. This paper laid out ways to improve the benefits system, increase employment opportunities and help more people lead independent lives.

Many people who use government services and support measures shared their experiences and opinions to help inform the paper. These people included individuals that Achieve together support, who spoke at virtual and in-person events across England.

Moving forward, Achieve together plans to collaborate with the Access to Work team and help the Health and Work DWP programme provide more support for autistic adults and adults who have learning disabilities.

People Achieve together Has Supported Into Employment

These are five of the many people Achieve together has supported into employment.

Jim: Volunteering at a British Heart Foundation Shop

With support from Achieve together, Jim has secured a role at a British Heart Foundation (BHF) shop. He collects donations outside the shop with a bucket twice a week.

Jim started by volunteering at the BHF shop for one hour a week. As his confidence grew, he increased his hours to three. Jim has also helped on reception with his support team, keeping things organised and making hot drinks.

On top of this, Jim has completed his training in Health and Safety, Equality and Diversity and Fire Safety, using the computer for the first time to do this training. He enjoyed the three courses and passed them all.

“I love helping the shop out, and it’s something to do and get me out of the house!” Jim says.

“Jim loves to help and to keep busy. He gets the most enjoyment from helping other people. He’s done exceptionally well, once collecting £98!” Chelsea Butler, Jim’s Home Manager, adds.

Jessica: Selling Artistic Works, Volunteering at the RSPCA and Partaking in Books Beyond Words

Jessica is a d/Deaf artist who sells her creations at exhibitions across Kent. Her bold, vibrant, and colourful style has attracted many customers. She themes many of her pieces around cats.

“They are lovely statement pieces and would be a great feature in a trendy home or for any cat lover,” Stephanie, Jessica’s mother, says.

Jessica attends Sandra Art4all to create her works. This inclusive, friendly environment allows her to develop her artistic skills. Jessica also enjoys her creative time in this space, which she finds both therapeutic and calming.

Jessica’s love for animals extends beyond her artistic cat creations. She also volunteers at the RSPCA Animal Centre.

On top of this, Jessica is involved in the local Books Beyond Words Group. Stephanie launched this group with interpreter Liz Mincer and champion of Beyond Words Sue Carmichael. The charity tells stories in pictures to help people who have learning, and communication difficulties explore and understand their experiences.

Matt: Volunteering at Mencap

Matt volunteers at Mencap, where he enjoys gardening and woodworking projects. His role involves growing fruit and vegetables like hot chillies, rhubarb, and cucumbers.

“It’s really good and really fun,” he says.

He also helps craft bird, owl, and bee boxes. Visitors can purchase these boxes on open days to raise funds for Mencap.

On top of this, Matt carries out safety checks and tests the fire alarms to make sure they are in full working order.

Matt landed his role through the Learning and Leisure Project, which helps people with learning disabilities develop their skills and supports their future development.

“It is great to hear how Matt is progressing and developing new skills. He has gone from needing full support with tasks like using a saw to now being able to help and guide others, which is a real accomplishment,” Matt’s Home Manager says.

Rebecca: Working at The Body Shop

Rebecca has secured a paid job in The Body Shop as a stockroom assistant, unpacking deliveries and arranging display baskets. She enjoys the wonderful smells and particularly loves the essential oils.

Rebecca has even bought herself a diffuser to enjoy the smells at home. She loves earning and using her staff discount.

Rebecca has lots of fun spending time with her colleagues and chatting with the customers.

“I like working with the people at The Body Shop,” she says. “Having a job has also taught me a lot. I’ve learned skills like organising stock and safety awareness such as making sure the exits are clear.”

Ben: Working at the YMCA, Training for the Special Olympics, and Supporting Unity

Every Wednesday, Ben’s support workers help him get ready for his job at his local YMCA. Here, Ben helps with cleaning and running activities. He enjoys chatting with customers and introducing them to the classes, which include Pilates, boxing, and Lifeworks inclusive activities.

Ben says that working at the YMCA has helped him develop skills like travelling independently, managing finances and timekeeping.

Aside from his paid work, Ben cycle trains for the Special Olympics (where he has earned medals).

He is also a member of Unity, where he is an expert by experience and shares his insights in meetings. As a Unity member, Ben has played a key role in selecting finalists for Achieve together’s Hero Awards and presenting at the awards ceremony.

Read more success stories of people who have landed employment and volunteering roles with Achieve together’s support.

About Achieve together care homes and services

Achieve together is a leading UK support provider for autistic people and people with learning disabilities, deafness, hearing loss, associated complex needs and profound and multiple learning disabilities.

From Achieve together care homes and supported living to domiciliary care and day care offerings, the organisation empowers everyone it supports on their unique paths to independence and fulfilment.