IEP Employabilty People - Donna Weston, Kennedy Scott

Name: Donna Weston
Job Title: Caseworker on Kennedy Scott’s Specialist Employment Support Programme (East Midlands and East of England)

What do you actually do?

I am a Caseworker on Kennedy Scott’s national Specialist Employability Support programme, which supports people with disabilities and complex health conditions into long lasting work. I cover the East Midlands and East of England. It is my job to help people overcome their barriers and support them into sustainable employment.

I see customers on a weekly, 1-2-1 basis, and initially I explain SES, how I can help, and find out what support they think they need to get work. On this contract, I deliver Kennedy Scott’s highly innovative Circle of Support© (CoS) model. I bring together in one place all of the relevant people in the individual’s life they feel can help support them towards employment. It typically includes their doctor, support workers, specialist organisations, family and friends. We all work together, adopting a multidisciplinary approach to support the individual in different aspects of their lives, e.g. with finances, housing, care and employment. When the customer secures a job, I involve the new employer in their CoS, which remains in place long after the customer completes provision to provide continuous support and progress.

I also work alongside an Employer Account Manager and a YMCA Activity Coordinator. The Employer Account Manager engages with employers to look for vacancies, work experience/ placements and work trails. The YMCA Activity Coordinator focuses on the customer’s health and wellbeing. They support with things such as travel training, confidence building and can even assist them with getting a haircut or going for an eye test. Together, we support the customer with everything and anything to help move them forward in their lives. I also run workshops with bigger groups, including a ‘healthy habits’ class which addresses things like personal hygiene in a fun and non-judgemental way.

What issues are in your employability inbox?

Breaking down the stigma that employers have when it comes to welfare to work programmes. They seem to shy away, so it is about engaging the employer and reassuring them on any concerns they have. Things like one week work trials help with this.

What do you think the employability sector is doing really well?

Engaging with the customer, making them feel valued and giving them a sense of self-worth. Also building up working relationships with JCP staff and working with the Jobcentre to ensure the customer gets the best support possible.

Where should we be looking to improve?

On educating and informing employers on the benefits of hiring somebody with a disability, their strengths and what they can bring to the workplace. There should also be more incentives to employers who offer a work placement and follow it up with a permanent, paid position.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

Be yourself, honesty is the best policy. Never be judgemental, everyone is an individual with their own unique story. We all need to be valued and everyone can provide a positive contribution to society, despite whatever barriers they may have.