Holistic, customer centred, empowering support: Teresa Scott's prescription for how to help more disabled people into work

On Wednesday 14 October Kennedy Scott Founder and Chief Executive, Teresa Scott, spoke at the Westminster Employment Forum’s conference on Disability in the Workplace.

Teresa addressed a diverse audience of policy stakeholders including disability rights groups, representatives of employers and trade unions, local authorities, employment lawyers, think-tanks, academics and the government, who had gathered to discuss the steps that can be taken to help more disabled people find or stay in employment.

The conference came at a critical time, as Government considers the future of the Access to Work Programme and the employability support models of the future.

Kennedy Scott’s participation follows our award of a prime contract to deliver the DWP’s Specialist Employability Support (SES) for long term unemployed disabled people all over the country.

Teresa set out clearly her passion for providing the right kind of help for disabled people, and her belief that with it “very many people with disabilities can secure work, make a valuable contribution to society and lead a fulfilling life.”

Teresa noted that “very few customers who are referred to SES, have straightforward support needs and therefore an Integrated approach is vital” and that “addressing one barrier [to employment] on its own is pointless and counterproductive if the individual is then knocked back by another.”

She described Kennedy Scott’s holistic approach which “seeks to address all the factors impacting on a customer’s ability to gain work simultaneously”, and our one-stop-shop model where specialist services are embedded within our centres, offering customers a wraparound package of support all under one roof.

Teresa said: “Our record shows that this kind of integrated support works, and I believe it should be at the heart of all future provision”.

Teresa, outlined Kennedy Scott’s pioneering “Circle of Support” model, which sits at the heart of our Specialist Employability Support delivery.

Kennedy Scott use multidisciplinary case conferencing to bring together relevant stakeholders in our customers’ lives. This might include: carers, community mental health practitioners, the Housing Authority, Access to Work, friends and family and, of course, the employer.

Of the “Circle of Support” model Teresa said: “The benefit of this approach is two-fold, providing the customer with a solid foundation as they seek work, and, critically, in the legacy of support it leaves behind once they are in work.”

Teresa suggested that the government should now “consider employability support for the disabled within moves towards health and social care integration” enhancing the ability for support providers such as Kennedy Scott to engage with GPs and other social services.

Finally, Teresa stressed the importance of empowering customers saying: “the more empowered a customer is over their own support, the greater the likelihood of success”. She proscribed more quality contact time with advisers and noted that this was a significant advantage of the SES programme.

Teresa advocated the need to consider ways to free up specialist advisers, through automation of some back office processes and better deployment of technology to allow customers to continue their development between meetings.

Teresa concluded that: “effective employability support for the disabled is support that puts the customer at the heart of the service, is truly integrated with other agencies, creates and leaves behind, a circle of support ultimately empowers the client throughout the programme and beyond”.

A full transcript of the conference is available from the Westminster Employment Forum.