Other services are currently under threat. This year in Falkirk two employment services for disabled people are facing financial challenges.
ASSET is a council run non profit making business to get people with learning disabilities into work. In a sheltered workshop setting they make a lot of different things, from fences, benches, bird houses, planters, balloons, wedding favours, invitations and much more. A redesign of employment services to people with a disability is being proposed with potential closure mooted.
Also in the same area is the Caledonia Clubhouse is an employment service for people with mental health problems and people with learning disabilities which helps people take up a range of options from volunteering to employment. It tries not to pressure vulnerable adults too quickly. Falkirk Council is reviewing its mental health services and hopes to achieve efficiency savings of about 20% as a result.
For us at the Learning Disability Alliance the debate should not be an either/or decision between supported and open employment. It is right that adults with learning disabilities or disabilities should have every opportunity to work in a mainstream setting.
But as a society we still need to do two things. First we must make further progress if we are to overcome the discrimination and other barriers that stand in the way of equal treatment of all disable people.
Second we need to recognise that for some people with disabilities who are a long way from getting a job there is the need for some intermediate support to learn about what it means to get up in the morning and go to work, to be responsible to other people and to work set hours.
We know that there are a range of support services to help people with disabilities into work.
Throughout Scotland there are a number of supported employment programmes set up to help disabled people into work such as the Real Jobs Project in Edinburgh or the Shirlie Project in Inverness.
These have helped thousands of people with learning disabilities into work. They work in a staged model that is based on the “Place and Train” model. This works really well for some people – you get the job first and then get special training on the job. Work is more than just a job and pay – it is about mixing and socialising with others – that’s best done in ordinary workplaces.
However work in ordinary jobs doesn’t suit everyone straight away. Part of the problem is that some disabled people need time to adjust to the world of work, to learn about the skills needed to survive in a job. That’s not just how to do the job but also how to survive the banter and keep up with other people.
The Supported Employment Framework for Scotland is a national strategy for Supported Employment. It is not meant to determine everything that happens in employability for people with disabilities but does set standards for those agencies that call themselves Supported Employment.
But in terms of some of the happens is local authorities can use the strategy in the same was as they used it to justify closing down their sheltered/training services. The key problem comes down to money – when decisions are made by cash strapped councils then all the national strategies in the world won’t change their minds. Instead strategies are twisted to suit.
In the future part of the employment strategy – the Work Programme will be transferred to Holyrood. It may not be so easy in the future for the Scottish Government to walk away from issues such as the closure of sheltered workshops.