Today is International Day of People with Disabilities



International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPD) bulletin

  • Some 69% of disabled adults say their work has been affected by the pandemic, rising to 89% of disabled young people aged 18-25.
  • One in five (19%) of employers are less likely to hire a disabled person, with more than two thirds citing the cost of making workplace adjustments as the main perceived barrier.
  • Almost two thirds of employers would support a mandate for companies with a workforce of more than 250 to publish data on the number of disabled people they employ.

This special bulletin includes:

  • Welcome from Elizabeth Taylor, Chief Executive, ERSA
  • Campaign information for International Day of People with Disabilities
  • Get involved with ERSA’s Disability, Health and Employment Forum
  • Read Leonard Cheshire report Still Locked Out: Breaking Down the barriers to disability inclusive employment
  • Shaw Trust’s annual Disability Power 100 list
  • Disability Employment Charter: Join us on 9 Dec, 9.30am
  • ERSA’s Team of the Year – Disability and Health Award 2021
  • Ideal for All: recognising IDPD
  • RNIB launches eLearning courses
  • Social media posts to show your support of IDPD

Welcome from Elizabeth Taylor, Chief Executive, ERSA 

On this 20th International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPD) rarely, if ever, has the work of our members been more important.

Our worst concerns about the effect of the pandemic on the livelihoods of some of the most vulnerable communities in the country proved true last year, and latest figures show there hasn’t been significant improvement to that situation in the past 12 months.

The work of ERSA members in these sometimes overwhelming circumstances has been magnificent, as the reduced access to routine physical and mental health support and risk of social isolation has been magnified by Covid-19 restrictions.

But we must use this moment as a launch pad for encouraging a better understanding and recognition by governments of the needs of people with all forms of disability.

And as the theme of this IDPD suggests, disabled people and those who represent them must take up the reins of leadership to drive a more equitable post-Covid world.
 International Day of People with Disabilities

Friday 3 December marks the 20th year of the United Nations rallying call promoting the rights and wellbeing of the more than one billion people in the world living with some sort of disability.

Against the backdrop of the continuing pandemic it seeks to increase awareness of their situation in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

A better future led by disabled people themselves is this year’s theme: ‘Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world.’

Find out more here

ERSA’s Disability, Health and Employment Forum: from Chair, Nicola Whiteman at Papworth Trust

This year’s International Day of People with Disabilities 2021 focuses on creating an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-Covid-19 world. At Papworth Trust we strive for a world where disabled people are seen for who they are, and this year we will be focussing our efforts on breaking down some of the myths and barriers that still exist around disability.

We’ll be speaking at many events over the course of the week – from working with students across Suffolk to answer their questions about disability, to supporting local businesses across Cambridgeshire to be disability confident – working alongside our local communities to be inclusive and accessible.

I am proud to serve as Chair of our sector’s Disability, Health and Employment Forum which focuses on developing ERSA’s policies around disability and health employment. If you are an ERSA member and are interested in providing employment support to disabled people and those with long term conditions, please consider getting involved in the forum’s work. Please get in touch with
Nicola Whiteman is the Policy and Communications Manager at Papworth Trust. The charity operates around the East of England, focusing on promoting the needs and wellbeing of disabled people in housing, employment, care and leisure opportunities.

Watch the last Disability, Health and Employment on 16 November here. 

The Government must invest in a tailored employment support scheme for disabled young people and larger companies should be legally bound to reveal how many disabled people they employ.

These are among the findings of this year’s report by the Leonard Cheshire Trust: Still Locked Out: Breaking Down the barriers to disability inclusive employment

It shows the pandemic is still having a significant effect on disabled people’s employment and livelihoods.

When, in 2019, Caroline Casey announced her goal of securing a commitment to disability inclusion by the leaders of 500 of the world’s biggest companies, it seemed like an overly ambitious dream. Two years on, businesses such as Apple, Coca-Cola, Microsoft and Unilever have all made that pledge.

That achievement has now been recognised in the Shaw Trust’s annual Disability Power 100 list of the most influential disabled people in the UK.

Click here to find out who else made it onto the list.

Disability Employment Charter: roadmap for change

With employment opportunities for disabled people showing little signs of improvement, the new Disability Employment Charter sets out a roadmap for change as the Government develops the next phases of its National Disability Strategy.

Download the charter here

ERSA is one of the latest organisations to sign up in support of the charter and has set up an online event taking place next week. 

Register in advance for a joining link for 9 December, 9.30 – 11am 

See who has signed the charter.

Coronavirus (COVID‑19)

This award was kindly sponsored by Triangle Consulting, watch a short video from Managing Director Graham Randles here. 

Chloe Smith, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work said, “Congratulations to all of the finalists of the ERSA 2021 Employability Awards.

“I’ve seen in my own constituency and across the country what a difference members of ERSA can make and I know how much local leadership really matters in effecting meaningful change.

“As the new Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work I am passionate about championing those with disabilities and long-term health conditions and helping to improve their daily lives. As a Government though, we can’t do this alone and it is only by working together that we can help build a more inclusive society that works for everyone.” Also watch a message from the minister, delivered as part of the winners announcement in November here. 

Congratulations to the ERSA Award finalists in this year’s Team of the Year – Disability and Health category. Of our eight worthy finalists, St. Joseph’s Approved Premises Bike Project was named winner at last week’s #ERSAAwards21.

The Bike Project offers weekly one-to-one tuition to participants by mechanics in repairing and recycling bicycles. Seventeen men – offenders with mental health difficulties – took part during the last year, cultivating practical, vocational, team-building, and problem-solving skills and helping to prepare for independent living.  Read more 

Also highly commended: 

Forwards Employment Service, Gloucestershire County Council   
Gloucestershire County Council’s Forwards Employment Service provides support to find work for young people who are in education with additional support needs, those transitioning from education, and adults engaging with Social Care or Health Services. During the pandemic, job brokers worked hard to keep in touch with those furloughed and find new jobs for those who lost them. 

Ideal for All: recognising IDPDIdeal for All is a Disabled Peoples User-Led Organisation (DPULO) and since 1996 has provided inclusive and accessible information, advice, and co-produced services to more than 30,000 people. It provides Direct Payment support services and award-winning Employment, Skills, Health and Wellbeing programmes. Delivery is completed by peer-support and condition management/independent living and the charity has developed seven acres of derelict land over three sites into accessible community horticultural assets to support these socially enterprising activities.
Khatija Patel, CEO of Ideal for All says: “International Day of Persons with Disabilities is a great opportunity for us all to take action towards making our world more inclusive for everyone. As part of this effort, we are starting the day’s events with our Youth Group; borrowing their hashtag #AllTogetherDifferent21, we aim to unite everyone in the face of adversity, ensuring that disabled peoples’ voices are heard. Set against the backdrop of our Employment partnership project with West Midlands Combined Authority and funded by National Lottery Community Fund, our Stand Out team is asking you to join us by wearing colourful clothing.

We encourage everyone to participate, using the hashtags #StandOut and #AllTogetherDifferent21 and tagging @idealforall on Facebook and Twitter to spread awareness. We hope you will join us in celebrating.

RNIB launches eLearning courses

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has launched eLearning courses which increase awareness of sight loss and provide information, advice and resources for jobseekers with sight loss, employment professionals, and employers.
For Jobseekers: RNIB’s new free online jobseeker course has been designed to help people with sight loss decide the next steps to take when thinking about employment. We’ve called on the experience of our professional employment advisors to put together their top tips for a successful approach to looking for work. The course has been tested by people with sight loss to make sure it’s easy to use, addresses their job search queries and is fully accessible. For further information visit the RNIB website: RNIB Jobseeker
For Employment Professionals: Do you want to know more about sight loss? Does your team help people with sight loss to find work? RNIB’s “Understanding Sight Loss for Employment Professionals” e-Learning course will give you the knowledge and tools to help. The course is online and takes about forty minutes to complete, it can be done in your own time and at your own pace. It includes the facts about sight loss, common eye conditions and their functional effects, things to consider when talking about jobs, how to guide someone with sight loss and further resources to help you. For further information visit the RNIB website: RNIB Employment Professionals
For Employers: RNIB’s “Understanding Sight Loss for Employers” course equips employers with everything they need to know about recruiting, supporting and retaining people with sight loss. It covers topics such as accessibility, technology, advertising posts, interviewing and supporting people with sight loss at work. For further information visit the RNIB website: RNIB Employers

Follow the hashtag on twitter #IDPD2021

Suggested social media posts

  • The livelihoods of disabled people have been harder hit by the pandemic than most other communities and action is needed now. That’s why we’re supporting the International Day of People with Disabilities.
  • Find out about the campaign driving changes to the Government’s strategy on disability and discover the UK’s most influential disabled people.[UNIQID] #IDPD2021 #ERSA #UNEnable #DisabilityInclusion
  • The cost of making workplace adjustments is the main perceived barrier to employing disabled people. The International Day of People with Disabilities is calling for a step change in attitudes.
  • Find out about the campaign driving changes to the Government’s strategy on disability and discover the UK’s most influential disabled people.[UNIQID]#IDPD2021 #ERSA #UNEnable #DisabilityInclusion

Events coming up


Read more and get involved! 

IDPD and the Covid-19 impact by Prof Amanda Kirby
The Valuable 500 are campaigning today

The ReAct Partnership 
 is the first partnership of its kind – an industry-led active collaboration supporting continuous improvement in Restart delivery through action research, shared learning and evidence-based resources. Read more about the partnership.

Our first major project has been on shared employer engagement models. Eligible organisations are invited to a launch event  on 7 December at 9am where we’ll present the findings and discuss how we can use them to drive performance and make a difference with Restart. 

To receive an invitation link, you must be a delivery partner on the Restart Scheme supporting one of six of the prime providers who have co-funded the project, they are Fedcap Employment, G4S, Ingeus, Maximus UK, Reed in Partnership and Serco. If that’s you, get in touch with us via

ERSA Membership
Giving a voice to the employment support sector 

ERSA member organisations deliver services to jobseekers and learners across the UK.  ERSA supports them through a wide mix of policy support, representation and services. 

If you are not already in ERSA membership you have find more information below, or get in touch directly with the team via for an informal chat.

Still Locked Out: Breaking down the barriers to disability inclusive employment

In October 2020 Leonard Cheshire published their “Locked Out of the Labour Market” research, warning that the Covid-19 pandemic was set to have a negative impact on the employment prospects and economic inclusion of disabled people unless urgent action was taken. The former Minister for Disabled People was kind enough to meet with them to discuss the findings of the report, and they are pleased to see DWP take action on some of our recommendations including increasing the number of Disability Employment Advisers in jobcentres.

Today, Leonard Cheshire have released the follow up briefing “Still Locked Out: Breaking Down the barriers to disability inclusive employment”, which shows that the pandemic is still having a significant impact on disabled people’s employment and livelihoods.

The new research and analysis – based on polling data provided by Savanta ComRes, reveals:

  • 69% of disabled adults said that their work had been affected by the pandemic. This rises to 89% of disabled young people (aged 18-25 years old).
  • One in five (20%) respondents who were in employment before the pandemic now say they have been placed on furlough or have applied for grants to top up their wages.
  • One in five employers state they would be less likely to employ someone with a disability.
  • Almost two thirds (63%) of employers would support a mandate for employers in businesses with a workforce over 250 to publish the data on the number of disabled people they employ

Additionally, just one in five disabled people have drawn on Access to Work, with almost two thirds of claimants waiting up to six months for support to be in place.  The report can be accessed here:

New National Disability Strategy launches

  • Disabled people set to benefit from plans to upgrade job support and opportunities, housing and transport as part of a new National Disability Strategy
  • Improving accessibility of homes, £300m investment in support for children with special educational needs and disabilities in schools and an online work passport to help disabled students move seamlessly from education to work
  • Plans to consult on disability workforce reporting for businesses with more than 250 staff

The strategy sets out 100 immediate commitments supported by £1.6bn of funding alongside an ambitious agenda for future reform.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

“Just as our talented Paralympians are set to take the stage in Tokyo next month, at home we are harnessing that same ambition and spirit, to build a better and fairer life for all disabled people living in the UK.”

“Our new National Disability Strategy is a clear plan – from giving disabled people the best start in school to unlocking equal job opportunities, this strategy sets us on a path to improve their everyday lives.”

Work and Pensions Secretary of State Thérèse Coffey said:

“The result of an unprecedented endeavour across government, this national strategy will help level up opportunity and improve the everyday experience of disabled people, whether that is at home; travelling on public transport; using the local high street or going online; enjoying culture, the arts or the great outdoors; and exercising civic roles like jury service and voting.”

“It sets out the practical actions we will take now, alongside clear accountability for delivering them, as well as renewing our ambition to do even more as we build back fairer.”

The strategy is focused on improving inclusion in the workplace, tackling the disability employment gap – currently at 28.6% – and making sure children with special educational needs and disabilities are at the heart of the strategy, including:

  • Consulting on introducing workforce reporting for businesses with more than 250 staff on the number of disabled people. A move designed to improve inclusive practice across the UK’s biggest employers and builds on existing gender reporting requirements
  • Increasing the number of disabled people employed by MI5, MI6, GCHQ, the Reservists and the civilian military by 2030. MI6 has set an interim target of 9% by 2025.
  • Launching a new online advice hub available to both disabled people and employers, which provides information and advice on disability discrimination in the workplace, flexible working and rights and obligations around reasonable adjustments. For the first time, the one stop shop will make it easier for disabled people to navigate the workplace.
  • Piloting an Access to Work Adjustments Passport to help smooth the transition into employment and support people changing jobs. Pilots will be taking place this year focussing on young people leaving education and veterans leaving the armed forces. The Adjustments Passport will capture the in-work support needs of the individual and empower them to have confident discussions about adjustments with employers. It will also set an expectation with the employer that specialist aids and appliances move when their employee progresses in work or moves post.
  • Investing £300 million to create places, improve existing provision in schools and make accessibility adaptations for children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

To make sure disabled people can live in homes adapted to their needs, we’re taking action to:

  • Raise the accessibility requirements for new homes and adapt existing homes using the £573 million Disabled Facilities Grant to make changes like widening doors, installing ramps, fitting stair lifts or installing a downstairs bathroom.
  • Mandating that 10% of homes built through the £11.5 billion Affordable Homes Programme 2021-26 will be for supported housing, boosting availability of good homes for those with additional needs. This target is designed to make more homes available to people with additional needs.

The strategy outlines new technology making rail journeys easier and more accessible including:

  • Enabling disabled passengers to contact staff from their seat on the train with the new support in place by end of March 2022, with DfT supporting innovative projects that will improve communication for disabled passengers and others with reduced mobility on rail services. Projects will be supported with between £50k and £400k and will use new technology to make using the railways easier and more accessible.

The Disability Strategy also covers a range of other areas including access to justice, culture and the arts. It marks the first cross-government endeavour to improve disabled people’s everyday lives with legislation, policy and funding from across all corners of government.

Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson said:

“For the first time, we have real cross-government focus, with clearly set out priorities and aims. We are absolutely committed to putting disabled people at the heart of government policy making and service delivery. Their voices, insights and experiences are central to this strategy and our future approach. By engaging disabled people, their families, carers and organisations, collectively we will deliver real and lasting change. That’s empowered us to focus on the things disabled people tell us are most important to them, and crucially they’ll be able to hold us to account as we deliver real and lasting change.”

Further information

  • Findings from the UK Disability Survey which had over 14,000 respondents showed many disabled people feel held back in their everyday lives by the negative attitudes of others, ranging from awkwardness and misguided empathy to outright hostility; by poorly designed homes, transport infrastructure, and public buildings and facilities or by a lack of support at school and at work.
  • A multi-year data programme to improve the availability, quality and relevance of information which will drive policy making across government. This will include regular disability surveys and public perception surveys due to launch by January 2022.
  • The strategy builds on the Disability Discrimination Act which enshrined protections for disabled people when it comes to employment, transport, education and provision of goods and services.
  • All commitments are backed by the personal drive of the UK government department’s Ministerial Disability Champion and progress will be reported on every 12 months.

Learning disability charity seeks views on Accessibility of Apprenticeships

Mencap logo

The learning disability charity Mencap has complied a short survey (5-10 mins) to establish views from employers, training providers, and other apprenticeship stakeholders about flexibilities or exemptions to the minimum levels of English and maths qualifications for people with a learning disability or learning difficulty. 

We are looking to establish whether there are recognised barriers to apprenticeships and an appetite for making apprenticeships more accessible. 

We would grateful if you could complete the survey by Friday, May 21st and circulate it across your network to help us generate a significant response.

Accessibility of Apprenticeships Survey

Please answer this survey if you are involved in apprentice training or provision in the UK. This survey will take approximately 5-10 minutes.

Click here to complete the survey


RAD research reveals significant barriers to employment and career progression opportunities for deaf people

Royal Association for Deaf people logo

**Click here for BSL**

New research by the Royal Association for Deaf people (RAD) has highlighted the challenges faced by deaf people when securing and progressing in work.

The survey, which polled the experiences of deaf people in relation to employment and career progression, was carried out at the end of 2020. Amongst the issues raised by respondents were a lack of deaf awareness amongst employers, communication issues and barriers to voluntary work.

When asked about careers advice, only a quarter of respondents said they had received this in sign language, whilst of those who received careers advice at school less than half (41%) said the careers advisor thought they could do the job they wanted.

When it came to career progression, the majority (60%) of respondents said they had not been given progression opportunities during their career, with several citing a lack of deaf role models within work as a key barrier.

Significant issues were also raised in relation to workplace accessibility and inclusion, with nearly two-thirds (63%) reporting they had not been given equal opportunities in the workplace and just over half (53%) did not feel supported at work. Added to this, 83% of respondents had been excluded from conversations with colleagues; two-thirds (69%) reported feeling lonely at work, whilst over half (59%) had been left out of social events. Shockingly, a third (34%) had experienced bullying or acts of unkindness at work because they were deaf.

More positively, nearly half (48%) said their colleagues had wanted to sign or to learn to sign with them. However, only 2 in 10 (21%) said their employer had arranged deaf awareness training for all staff.

Sue Evans, Joint Chief Executive at RAD, said:

“Our latest research confirms what many deaf people, and those working in the sector, have unfortunately known for a while: that deaf people continue to face significant challenges when it comes to accessing the labour market. This survey has also shone fresh light on some of the specific barriers to career progression, such as the lack of deaf role models in work and insufficient networking opportunities. Our DeafAdvance programme looks to tackle some of these issues, and we will be establishing the first management and leadership training centre for deaf people, aligning with accreditations such as ILM and ESOL.”

Martin McLean, Careers Policy Advisor at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said:

“Deaf young people are already less likely to be employed than their hearing peers and this concerning report shows some of the reasons why.

“If they’re deprived of good quality, accessible careers advice at this pivotal stage of their life, it puts them at a serious disadvantage before they’ve even moved into the world of work.

“Those that do find a job are arriving with incredible skills to offer, but all too often they’re unfairly held back by a real lack of support, inclusion and deaf awareness.

“Deaf young people are capable of anything, but unless they get the support they need, a generation of potential risks going to waste.”


Notes to editors:

  • The Royal Association for Deaf people (RAD) is a charity founded in 1841 that works to ensure deaf people have access to services in British Sign Language (BSL)
  • The survey was carried out between October and December 2020
  • A total of 53 deaf people took part in the survey (three-quarters (77%) described themselves as a deaf BSL user; 50% as deaf oral; 13% as hard of hearing; 3% as deafened. Just over half (53%) said BSL was their preferred method of communication; 20% Sign Supported English (SSE); 17% spoken English; 7% lip-reading)
  • A link to the report with BSL translation can be found here
  • For comments and media enquiries please email or contact 07805 783 625

Minimising the Mental Health Crisis through Job Creation and Employment

mental health.jpeg

See the original post in FE NEWS on 6 March here

By Elizabeth Taylor, ERSA and Richard Brooks, SETAS

The Employability Sector 

The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) is the representative body for the employment support sector. Poor mental health is a significant and all-too-common barrier to finding employment. Our members see at first-hand the impact poor mental health has in preventing people accessing employment.

The employability sector encompasses a huge range of specialist providers delivering skills provision, wellbeing services, self-employment advice, offender and youth support, and employability programmes. They deliver services to people at every stage of their employability journey, from those ready and able to start work, to the hardest to reach learners and jobseekers. Spanning the private, voluntary and public sectors, this diversity sparks innovation and its strength should be recognised.

Upskilling, reskilling, digital accessibility, numeracy, literacy, and mental health interventions play a crucial part in equipping future jobseekers with the tools to progress. Now more than ever, people disengaged from the labour market need a positive focus; interventions to help them move forward in an uncertain time.

When getting people into work is far from straightforward or even possible, commissioners should not be driven by the holy grail of job starts. As thoughts turn to the Government’s next large scale commissioning rounds, funding for mental health support and skills development in its many guises must be given its rightful focus. A ‘rich tapestry of provision’ is often quoted. Let’s hope the market is appropriately funded in the future to deliver it.

Service Design for Unemployed People

The DWP’s Plan for Jobs has an understandable emphasis on job creation. RESTART, which is currently open to bids, has a single, job outcome measure.

Mental health can deteriorate rapidly once a person is out of work, often overtaking other barriers a person faces in their employability.

Providers have a golden opportunity now to build robust provision into their bids. With RESTART offering a more generous package of funding per participant, working with people to build resilience and improve mental wellbeing is eminently achievable – and will pay dividends in achieving that sustained job outcome.

With up to 14 providers set to ultimately deliver RESTART contracts, mental health support within programmes will inevitably vary but we hope to see an improved emphasis on: mental health training for employability staff; social prescribing activity with local mental health partners; and strengthened links with Jobcentre Plus to ensure participants are signposted to the most appropriate programme.

Support for the Working Population

Poor mental health is not the sole preserve of unemployed people: one in three of the UK workforce have been diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point in their lives. Normalising discussions about mental health in the workplace is an ongoing challenge. Whether you’re a programme participant adjusting to returning to work, or one of the millions of workers juggling changes in working practices with the impact of the pandemic at home, times can be tough.

Support for Employability Professionals

Let’s also count amongst those workers the thousands of employability professionals working harder and smarter than ever before. Massively increased workload, new delivery methods, and a client population with undoubtedly growing mental health concerns; they give it their all. In an industry which prides itself on the empathy and lived experiences of many of its professionals, it can be physically and emotionally draining work.

Current Provision

Recognising symptoms, knowing what help is available, and building the confidence to speak out in any workplace needn’t be onerous or costly. MHFA England offers resources, and the Five Ways to Wellbeing are simple, yet highly effective. The Access to Work mental health support service also offers free mental health support to employers and any of their employees. Employers should encourage emotional intelligence in the workplace – seemingly small interventions can make a huge difference.


Awareness, awareness, awareness – and the power of three should be the mantra.

Recommendation 1

Commissioners of employability provision should embed mental health awareness, support and training into future strategies. For some, it’s a marathon not a sprint, and the sector should be shaped accordingly.

Recommendation 2

Providers should seize the opportunity to build mental health provision into their services and give appropriate training to staff. Getting participants jobs, and maintaining them, will depend on it.

Recommendation 3

Employers should embrace their duty to protect the mental health of employees. There’s a firm business case for it too.

Understanding and Overcoming a Mental Health Crisis in 2021

This article is from the new publication ‘Understanding and Overcoming a Mental Health Crisis in 2021: issues for post-16 education, employment, the world of work and retirement’.

Some of the issues and concerns for mental health discussed existed prior to the pandemic, but Covid-19 has caused additional pressures on young people and adults. 

The authors make specific recommendations to support apprentices and students at colleges, university and in adult learning, as well as people in and out of work.

The important role of education, lifelong learning and good work in promoting mental wellbeing and reducing mental health problems is also addressed. 

Published by the Campaign for Learning, it brings together sixteen specialists from mental health and post-16 education and employment to set out what needs to be done to prevent or limit a mental health crisis in 2021. 

Online focus group: Sight loss and visual impairment study – employment outcomes


The Vision Foundation has commissioned the Vision Impairment Centre for Teaching and Research (VICTAR) at the University of Birmingham to do some research on employment. We want to understand more about the factors which contribute to employment outcomes (the good and not so good) for individuals with a visual impairment, living and/or working in Greater London. This project is being funded by the Vision Foundation and will help to ensure our work is evidence-based and impactful.

The researchers at VICTAR would like to talk to professionals who have experience of supporting individuals with a visual impairment into employment, in addition to individuals with sight loss who are working and not working at the moment. They want to hear about a range of different experiences.

If you, or anyone you know, would be willing and able to share your experiences in an online focus group, please go to where you will be able to find out more information and register to participate. All participants will receive a £20 shopping voucher as a token appreciation for their time.

This project is being managed by Dr Rachel Hewett and she can be contacted at

Shaw Trust ‘Care Academy’ to recruit and support social care workers: Meeting a national need in challenging times


The Shaw Trust charity is launching a new Care Academy in response to the national skills shortage in the sector. The academy will support the government’s ambition to attract new care recruits. It will act as a single source of professional advice and support to employers. The Care Academy will meet this challenge by bringing together the range of services Shaw Trust offers. This will cover careers advice, learning and skills development, and employment support.

The Shaw Trust Care Academy will deliver a career pathway approach to Care professionals. This offers an end-to-end learning experience from pre-employment training to degree level qualifications, leading to improved staff satisfaction, retention and progression in the Care sector. This approach is aimed at meeting the needs of those joining and already in the profession, as well as employers.

Last week the government put out a call to boost the social care workforce through a national recruitment campaign. The social care sector needs more than 20,000 additional workers now to support and look after some of the most vulnerable in our society. The vital nature of the work and the importance of the sector has been highlighted by the Covid crisis. Social care has previously been perceived as the Cinderella service compared to healthcare workers and essential NHS workers. Covid-19 has shown the need for an adequately staffed, skilled and well-resourced care sector.

As the UK’s largest employment and skills charity, Shaw Trust works with more than 100,000 people seeking jobs and new careers each year. This coupled with the Shaw Trust’s Ofsted Outstanding training provided by Ixion, makes the charity ideally placed to launch the Shaw Trust Care Academy. 

Chris Luck, Shaw Trust’s CEO, comments: “Today is an important day for the Trust; the Care Academy is our response to the national need to attract, train and support the nation’s Care workforce. This fits with our commitment to care for others and aim to improve lives.  Our goal is to recruit and to support a professional, progressive and richly rewarding career pathway for carers, which they can be proud of and aspire to.  Getting that right will hugely benefit all those being supported and cared for and that’s our ultimate goal.”



Case studies

Distinctions for two apprentices

Last month two apprentices completing their Health and Social Care qualifications, Kieron and Chipo, gained distinctions. The pair, who both studied and work in adult social care have been providing frontline care throughout the current Covid-19 outbreak. Speaking about their achievement, Jacqui Oughton, Shaw Trust’s Chief Operating Officer comments: “Kieron and Chipo have done exceptionally well achieving distinctions. Like all of our successful learners in social care, both showed empathy, great communication skills and were friendly and open with the people they care for. These are the really key attributes needed for careers in care, everything else we can teach whether you are just starting out or wanting to improve your skills so you can take your career to the next level.

“We are keen to support young people and adults into the sector. Those leaving school can enter the sector choosing care as a career of choice with excellent progression opportunities. By joining Shaw Trust Care Academy learners will also get support with their digital skills development to ensure everyone progressing is able to navigate new technology used across all aspects of the care sector.”

About Shaw Trust and the Social Care Academy

Shaw Trust is a charity supporting people to gain an education, enter work, develop their career, improve their wellbeing or rebuild their lives. It is the largest provider of government funded employment support contracts in England. Additionally, Shaw Trust runs a host of social enterprises supporting disabled people. From trustees to employees and beneficiaries our wealth of lived experience gives us personal insights into health and social care provision. Shaw Trust currently works with more than 100,000 people a year who are looking for work or aiming to progress in their careers.

Shaw Trust invests back into the people and communities through the Shaw Trust Foundation. The Trust supports and works extensively with adults and young people who are unemployed (NEETs) and find it challenging to enter the workforce including disabled people, ex-offenders, young people who are socially isolated and care leavers. The charity delivers large employment programmes including the Work & Health Programme, National Careers Service and Intensive Personalised Employment Support alongside apprenticeship, training, learning and skills work and running residential children’s care homes.

Shaw Trust Care Academy embodies Shaw Trust’s organisational values and people-centric ethos. All surplus created through Shaw Trust Care Academy will be channelled through Shaw Trust Foundation.  The Shaw Trust Care Academy offers a fully supported service to both employers in the health and care sector as well as potential and current employees. For employers, the Academy offers a single source of professional advice and support covering recruitment, staff development and managed staff progression leading to improved staff retention. This offer addresses the current high vacancy and staff turnover rates within the care sector as well as supporting CQC requirements. This service can attract government funding (either in part or fully) as well as utilising apprenticeship levy funding, reducing recruitment and training costs in a financially distressed sector.

For current care and health workers or those considering entering the sector the Academy offers a seamless career development route-way. Participants in the Academy have a skilled advisor to guide them through every step of their career path. We use technology and online learning blended with face-to-face support and in-work training. This allows initial engagement and ongoing development tailored to the needs of the individual and the employer.

In light of the societal lockdown and social distancing measures required by the current Covid-19 outbreak, the Academy we utilise the latest digital platforms, to offer the best service possible.



Jobseekers with mental health conditions deserve more funding, not less

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This has been republished as part of Mental Health Awareness week. Oringally published 15 October 2015.  

A few weeks ago, articles appeared attacking the support provided to long term unemployed people, specifically individuals with mental health issues, through the Work Programme and its myriad of specialist providers. The arguments criticise both the support and the results, whilst calling for lower cost schemes to be substituted for those who need help the most. These counter-intuitive arguments need to be tackled head on, whilst agreement should be reached on the reforms to the system that are needed to ensure the best support is provided at the right time to people with mental health conditions.

Official figures show that at least 10% of Work Programme customers suffer from a mental health condition, although providers at the frontline know that this figure is, in reality, a lot higher. Being unemployed in and of itself can cause new and entrench existing mental health problems, especially with some jobseekers having been out of the work for many years. Mental health support is therefore a huge element of the sessions, programmes and specialist provision delivered under the programme, both by mental health charities and mainstream providers. However, not everyone referred through to the Work Programme through the WCA should be there; some individuals with mental conditions should be in the support group. It is important that the system gets it right first time. Nonetheless, work is good for you – in any critique it is vital not to overlook the positive and well-evidenced link between being in work and mental wellbeing. As the campaign Time to Change highlights, problems like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder do not need to stop you from working (or by extension, prevent you from being provided with support to help you move towards work). In fact, the opposite should be true.

Take the example of Mark, a young man from Burton-on-Trent who suffered with depression due to ongoing health concerns. Since his heart surgery in December 2012, Mark was on Employment Support Allowance and his confidence, motivation and self-esteem were low as he had been out of work for about a year. Mark joined the Work Programme and, with the help of his learndirect advisers, Josh Golding and Lisa Samuels, took a counselling course and completed a Customer Service Apprenticeship. After struggling to sustain in a job due to his ongoing health problems, he started his own business and also has a Warehouse Operative job with growing local firm CTS Toner Supplies, who were impressed by his thorough work and professionalism. Mark also continues building his online sales business, which is going from strength to strength. Following his support via the Work Programme, he said: “The best thing about being in work is the sense of pride you get. Knowing that you put your own bread and butter on the table is a special feeling when you’ve been in a situation where you couldn’t before.”  

What is true is that some people with complex needs, including individuals with mental health conditions, may take longer than others to move towards and into the workplace. Therefore we believe that a number of jobseekers should have longer on the Work Programme than the allotted two years, which should in turn improve results. The programme should also ‘stop the clock’ when intensive mental health support is being delivered, for example through local IAPT services, and introducing milestone payments for providers along the way would help some, especially smaller specialists, to fund the support required. Removing the challenges of data sharing between IAPT and employment services would make a significant difference to the referral from and coherence of the support provided. Greater integration, rather than greater fragmentation, of services should be the direction of travel.

It is also clear, however, that the sanctions regime is in need of further reforms to ensure that the most vulnerable are not being adversely impacted. This aspect of the system is not under the control of Work Programme providers but is instead administered by JobCentre Plus. ERSA has called for an overhaul of the current benefit sanctions regime and has put forward a five point plan to increase its effectiveness. This is particularly important as we look towards the future of employment support programmes and the structures which surround them.

Finally, what is key is to champion a better way to identify and prioritise those who need support the most. Many Work Programme providers are undertaking comprehensive assessments of jobseekers once they are on their programme, but at this point each individual has already been crudely categorised by benefit type and assigned to support. An improved system would provide a holistic needs-based assessment for all jobseekers at the point of unemployment, to enable those who need support the most to receive it at the earliest possible opportunity. This would identify debt, housing, mental health, childcare, family support and a number of other crucial issues which only worsen the longer individuals are left to languish or cycle through the system.

Mark and thousands of others have turned their lives around with help from the Work Programme – support which is taking place right across the UK today. Fragmenting the system could risk stigmatising those receiving help and present challenges to initially engaging key groups onto the support available. Introducing a fuller assessment of needs and ensuring a timely referral to support, all within a reformed sanctions regime, would be crucial blocks in improving the experiences of the long term unemployed with mental health conditions.

By Sam Windett, Head of Policy and Communications, ERSA

Chairs appointed to network to give disabled people stronger voice

The Office for Disability Issues has announced the appointment of chairs to lead 9 new Regional Stakeholder Networks

From: Department for Work and Pensions and Office for Disability Issues



Regional chairs have been announced to move forward work to break down the barriers disabled people and their families face in everyday life.

The appointees will lead 9 new Regional Stakeholder Networks tasked with amplifying the voices of disabled people and disability organisations in regions across England, reporting back to government on a range of issues including transport, housing and employment.

The chairs of the network were selected based on their understanding of disability issues specific to their regions, their expertise in disability policy and its effects at the grassroots level.

Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson said:

If we are truly to break down the barriers faced by disabled people in everyday life, it’s vital that we listen to their views.

All the chairs have a wealth of experience, expertise and skills which qualify them for these crucial roles. I am delighted at the calibre of the successful candidates and looking forward to working with the Regional Stakeholder Network to drive change and improve the lives of disabled people across the country.

Many of the 8 chairs are disabled people, while others work in disabled people’s organisations or organisations that support disabled people.

Several hold other roles in a voluntary capacity which will help them tap into the issues and concerns of their local networks.

The chairs will convene meetings with network members within their regions and work with the government’s Office for Disability Issues to help inform future policy.

The first meeting between the chairs is due to take place today.

The Network chairs are:

East of England: Naomi Tomkys OBE, CEO, Sky Badger

Greater London: Ruth Owen OBE, CEO, Whizz-Kidz

North East: Michael Potts, Board Member, Veterans Advisory and Pension Committee

North West: Lynne Turnbull, CEO, Cheshire Centre for Independent Living

South East: Barry Ginley, Director, Tamstone Consulting Ltd

South West: Samantha Everard, CEO, Support and Mentoring Enabling Entrepreneurship (SAMEE)

West and East Midlands: Louise Mckiernan, CEO, Birmingham Disability Resource Centre

Yorkshire and the Humber: Liz Leach Murphy, Founder/Managing Director, Imagineer CIC