ENABLE Works has expanded its existing service to support people with learning disabilities.
ENABLE Scotland works for an equal society for every person who has a learning disability. The organisation offers support across a wide range of areas, with one of these being employability. With around 100 staff working in its employability services, ENABLE Works has enacted a swift response to COVID-19 conditions. It took only two days for the organisation to switch to remote working, a huge change for a team that is used to face to face engagement in the community.
The key objective for the employability team is keeping the people they work with engaged, to continue to keep in touch and be a point of contact even when traditional employability work may be less active during COVID-19. The team has been creative in its approach, encouraging people to watch journalist Stacey Dooley’s “The Nine to Five” programme as an engagement tool. They are also engaging people in health, fitness and wellbeing sessions. In terms of accessibility, ENABLE Works found that due to most of the people they support being under 30, many of them were familiar with digital modes of communication making the transition to remote working easier.
A crucial service which ENABLE Works continues to provide is ‘First Steps’. This programme works with particularly vulnerable young people who have left school or college without an immediate progression to employment. With many of the people taking part in the programme living in poverty, at risk of homelessness or experiencing substance use problems, continuing this stream of work is incredibly important while COVID-19 exacerbates these issues. Keeping people engaged every day is key to continuing the support.
Jamie Rutherford, Director of ENABLE Works points out: “There’s a lot of young disabled people here who could be a lost generation because they aren’t getting the support to make a transition from school”. This is where the organisation’s Stepping Up Live service comes in. As COVID-19 saw the closure of schools, career guidance support was also lost and ENABLE Works have expanded their existing service to support young people with learning disabilities in the transition period on a country-wide basis. Already around 100 schools have signed up to the service which is seeing ENABLE Works staff adapting quickly to working across geographic areas they have previously been unfamiliar with.
Staff are also supporting people who are in work but have been furloughed, ensuring relationships with employers are kept going, that people have a good understanding of their situation and helping with budgeting where people are on 80% of their salary. A positive aspect has been the number of people who continue to gain employment during COVID-19 with 22 people obtaining jobs as key workers in health and social care in April. Jamie states this all had to be done with processes in place: “We’ve done the work with the employers and employees to make sure they’re not at any enhanced risk because of any underlying health conditions. These are good quality jobs for people that are really willing to go out there and be part of those teams.”
In order to be able to work remotely in a way that responds to people’s needs and circumstances, ENABLE Works staff were quickly given refresher training on issues around confidentiality and safeguarding focused on working remotely with Jamie stating he is grateful to partners in the sector for sharing useful information and best practice. In terms of the organisation’s ability to quickly put into place new ways of working, Jamie cites his team’s ability to be agile due to their background working on short term projects that require them to continually adapt to providing different services.
With the challenges facing people with learning disabilities with respect to employability during COVID-19, ENABLE Works’ services are keeping people engaged, which is not only important in the present day but essential to ensuring people are able to be part of the economic recovery period in the future. ENABLE Works are working to prevent a potential ‘lost generation’ of young people with learning disabilities being locked out of the labour market at a precarious and challenging time. Their rapid and creative response is testament to their ability to put those who access services at the heart of their strategy.