ENABLER was a three year research project which sought to improve the employment opportunities of blind and partially sighted job seekers and worked on the creation of an employment assessment toolkit.
The project addressed concerns that government welfare to work programmes may not recognise the additional barriers facing many blind and partially sighted people; such as access to job seeking information, accessibility of online resources, mobility training, the functional impact of different sight conditions, and the cost and availability of access technology equipment and software.
These barriers are made worse by other factors such as low educational attainment, a lengthy unemployment history, additional disabilities and mental health problems.
In addition, existing funding for mainstream employment support services is weighted towards job outcomes.
Consequently organisations supporting people to find work may concentrate on customers who are seen as able to work sooner. Blind and partially sighted individuals, particularly those with additional complex needs who are not yet ready for employment, may become further marginalised as a result.
The ENABLER project used an action-research framework. Researchers worked alongside RNIB Group employment teams as well as blind and partially sighted people in the design and testing of the new assessment toolkit, as well as looking at new ways of working with people considered a long way from being ready for work.
The ENABLER project developed an employment assessment toolkit which will help employment professionals to gain a clear understanding of what a person’s aspirations and abilities are in relation to employment, and what types of support and development are needed to help fulfill these.
As well as developing the employment assessment toolkit, the group tested a number of innovative support options for people that we know require a great deal of support on their journey towards employment.
We also piloted a new pre-employment programme within two of the groups’ service delivery teams. From the people involved in the pilot:
- 22% of participants secured paid employment, two of whom had attended a pre-employment programme.
- 22% participants have secured full-time education courses.
- 50% participants benefitted from voluntary work as the first important step on their journey into paid employment. One of these individuals, in her 40’s, had never worked before, whilst another had not been employed for 18 years.
- Various individuals have developed skills in a range of areas; for example, travelling independently through mobility training, computer skills through IT training, and accessing information through literacy and numeracy courses.
- Confidence levels and motivation have increased for most participants over the last eight months.
We hope the knowledge gained by using the toolkit, and in testing new ways to support customers a long way from being work-ready, can be used by Welfare to Work providers to provide front line staff with the assessment tool they need, when dealing with blind and partially sighted jobseekers.
Employment assessment toolkit – use it now!
UK Employment Services Manager