New Kennedy Scott and YMCA partnership launch national Specialist Employability Service

By Teresa Scott, CEO

The Government has expressed the ambitious goal of halving the employment gap between people with disabilities and their able-bodied peers. This will put an additional 1.1million disabled people into work, reversing a trend of several decades.

This is a mighty challenge, to which many will need to contribute, from government, through to employers, providers of support services, and disabled individuals themselves.

Building on 25 years of experience supporting those with multiple, complex barriers to work, Kennedy Scott are keen to play an important part in this effort. Central to this is our new partnership with Central YMCA, conceived for the Government’s new national specialist employability support contract, and formally launched on the 21st August at YMCA’s King Cross office.

This SME – third sector partnership will deliver the pan-disability contract across England, under the brand KS@YMCA, augmented by seven further third sector subcontractors. Starting on September 1st, this two-year contract will support 735 individuals with complicated needs caused by their disability, and more than a third are expected to go into sustainable work.

The DWP selected our partnership to deliver the contract in order to put to trial a new model of supporting those with multiple disadvantages into work. This is called the ‘Circle of Support’ and draws on extensive evidence and best practice from diverse fields including LLDD, dementia care and occupational health. The methodology is rooted in multi-agency working, by bringing together all the key parties in an individual’s life to work collaboratively, cohesively and coherently.

A team of internal and external specialists will support people to maximize their strengths, realise their aspirations and build sustainable careers. This will comprise KS caseworkers and employers’ account managers, activity co-ordinators from YMCA and specialists from third sector partners including Mencap and the National Autistic Society, plus representatives from statutory agencies including GPs and Jobcentre Plus staff and, last but not least, friends and family. Circles of Support will meet regularly to monitor progress, identify challenges and opportunities, and delineate roles and responsibilities going forward.

This contract is taking over from Residential Training, where the DWP evaluated that the “approach was less customised to individuals’ and employers’ needs and less tailored to employment goals than many trainees would have liked”. As such the Circle of Support will be built to suit each individual, with tailored support and employer engagement.

The model will also directly tackle isolation, which is a major problem for the unemployed and people with disabilities. As such, each Circle is designed to outlive the duration of the contract and aims to get employers on board too, recognising that the transition into the workplace can be very challenging.

The Circle of Support is designed to provide a solid base of consistent, specialist support for each individual – an opportunity fostered by the provisions of the contract. We are keen to help prove the case for specialist employability services for disabled people, which is relevant and important given current debates within the Department of Work and Pensions as to whether the specialist employability provision should remain in place, or instead be drawn into the new Work Programme Plus contracting round. It is our view that there is value in specialism, and with our innovative partnership and Circle of Support model, we intend to prove this case.