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New service helps people with health needs and disabilities to achieve their work ambitions

The Health Works for Cornwall team at Pluss create a new People Panel to lead engagement and shape support for individuals with learning disabilities.

A new ‘Health Works for Cornwall’ service has been launched to support more than 5,000 people across communities in Cornwall who are out of work, helping them to build confidence and find work through a proactive approach that matches them with employers.

Employment specialist Pluss is offering the personalised programme, in partnership with Cornwall Development Company, to help people with health or wellbeing needs and learning disabilities to overcome challenges, identify goals, help prepare for interviews, and access work trials and tasters. Pluss will also specifically support 400 people with learning disabilities across the whole of Cornwall.

Launched last month, this programme can provide up to 12 months support and can also offer individuals support after they have started a new job.

The Pluss team are recruiting people with learning disabilities to join a People Panel, which will help to break down barriers and listen to their experiences in order to co-design the programme in a way they feel works best.

Marcus Reed, 23, from St Dennis, will chair the People Panel while currently working in a seasonal retail job. Marcus is ambitious for the future and hopes to empower other people who are facing some of the same barriers he came up against when trying to find work.

Marcus, who has autism, said: “I have found it very difficult because a lot of employers are cautious in their approach to inclusivity. It seems to me that if you mention your disability, many people misunderstand what you can achieve in the workplace.

“Some employers believe, because you have autism, you can be short tempered, struggle to talk to people, will only be able to do repetitive jobs and have a lot of problems that will need to be addressed. That’s not always the case – disabled people are probably some of the most loyal and dedicated workers too.

“With my diagnosis, I find I am constantly doubting myself and worrying in case I mess up. I try not to overthink, I tell myself ‘You can do it’ and I prefer to say yes and just jump into it. I might struggle but nine times out of ten, I can do it.”

Marcus is passionate about sport and believes it has helped him to develop as a person, as has gaining sports coaching experience in schools. He would ideally like a job in the sports industry or a role supporting others to achieve their potential.

He is enthusiastic about leading the People Panel as he believes people with learning disabilities will be better able to understand the key questions and issues faced by this group.

“People who have had the experience of living with autism or ADHD can help those with similar issues and understand how get through to them. Because we share similar experiences and difficulties, more people are likely to listen,” he explained.

Co-financed by the European Social Fund, Health Works for Cornwall will provide a specialist team of Change Coaches and Employment Managers dedicated to providing the one-to-one support each person with a health condition or learning disability needs to help them towards and into employment.

The team will also work with employers to encourage work trials, job matching and job creation to meet skills gaps.

Paul Toon, Pluss Performance Manager for Cornwall, said: “This programme will reach out to the most rural parts of Cornwall and those most excluded from work opportunities. Our role is to help build skills and confidence to help each individual take control of their future and reach their full potential. It’s also an opportunity to break down traditional barriers in the workplace and build greater understanding amongst employers about the benefits of a more inclusive working environment.”

Pluss’ People Panel participants will be at the very helm of the service; their own experience will enable them to help shape the support we offer to ensure the best results. Only by active engagement, empowering people to develop a stronger voice as they progress on their journey through the programme, can we best support individuals to feel the job for them is within their grasp”.

Only six per cent of adults with a learning disability known to their local authority in England are in paid work, yet this represents a significant untapped resource of people who can flourish in the right role with the right support.

For more information, about joining the programme or the People Panel, contact Pluss on 07546 411 996 or email: [email protected]. Employers who would like to discuss signing up for the Disability Confident scheme and employing people with disabilities should contact 0800 334 5525 and speak to Pluss’ employer services team.   

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Photo: Marcus Reed

Notes to Editors

Pluss is part of the Seetec Group that supports over 150,000 individuals each year through programmes funded by the Department for Work and Pensions (Work & Health Programme), Education and Skills Funding Agency (such as apprenticeships), Ministry of Justice (Transforming Rehabilitation) and various local authorities. Over the past 36 years, Seetec has adapted its delivery models to reflect changing employer and labour market demands. 

The Health Works for Cornwall programme offers support across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly for those with a health related barrier to employment..  Pluss will be delivering across South East Cornwall (including Liskeard, Callington, Saltash and St Austell) and 
Coast-to-Coast (Truro, Falmouth, Redruth and Camborne). Pluss are also providing support countywide for those with a Learning Disability/Difficulty.

UK government figures (2018) show 6% of working age adults with a learning disability known to their local authority were in paid or self-employment, and two thirds of these were working for less than 16 hours per week.

Health Works for Cornwall is an ESF DWP programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.  The programme is designed to support 5500 workless individuals where there are health related barriers to employment.  It is supported through ESF Priority Axis 1, Inclusive Labour Markets (Investment Priority 1.1 Access to Employment for Jobseekers and Inactive People).

Cornwall Development Company is the Accountable Body for the funding and provides the programme support, management and processes.

Health Works for Cornwall received £7.8 million of investment from the European Social Fund as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme in England.  A further 20% has been match funded, with Cornwall Council being the principal match funders. The Department for Work and Pensions is the Managing Authority for the England European Social Fund programme. Established by the European Union, the European Social Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support skills development, employment and job creation, social inclusion and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.

Under Health Works for Cornwall, Cornwall Development Company (CDC) leads a partnership of 10 local organisations, all of whom were specifically chosen because of their expertise, based on decades of experience in running programmes with the identified target groups.

Health Works for Cornwall have developed collaborative and innovative solutions that will address the underlying key challenges of breaking the cycle of ill health and/or reliance on benefits that can lead to issues such as low earnings, household income issues, long-term unemployment, poverty and debt.  This is an employment support programme meaning that the principal goal is to progress participants into work.

The contract covers a three-and-a-half-year period, from July 2020 to December 2023.