A recent independent evaluation report by NCVO’s Charities Evaluation Services reveals key elements needed for employment programmes to succeed in supporting people with sight loss to find and retain paid employment. The evaluation of a one year pilot project at national sight loss charity Thomas Pocklington Trust shows a strong success rate of almost 40% for one to one support into employment for blind and partially sighted people.
The report sets out the lessons learned from the London-based project which won the VISION 2020 UK 2016 Astbury Award, given in recognition of work that fosters excellence in collaboration within the eye health and sight loss sectors.
Whilst the government is making a commitment to halve the disability employment gap, a recent survey of blind and partially sighted people reveals that employment rates amongst this group have actually fallen from 33% in 2006 to 27% in 2015. That means that whilst 3 out of 4 people in the general working age population are enjoying the benefits of paid work, only 1 in 4 blind and partially sighted people are afforded this right. To date, employment rates of blind and partially sighted people have remained abysmally low, despite millions of pounds spent through interventions to change this such as the DWP’s Work Programme, Work Choice and Disability Confident schemes.
Thomas Pocklington Trust’s response to the appalling situation was to establish an employment project to support more people into work and to prevent people with existing work from losing their jobs because of sight loss. Whilst the UK sight loss sector has a strong track record of providing employment support to people further from the workplace, the pilot differentiated itself by solely focusing on those at the employment-ready end. The majority of this group had the necessary employability skills, but lacked the individual and practical support needed to make the final leap into paid work. CEO Peter Corbett says about the project, “This shows the importance of providing tailored, practical support to get people over the line into employment and keep them in work.”
The evaluation report explores how the project addressed a gap in employment provision for visually impaired people and offers solutions to Thomas Pocklington Trust and employment programme providers to address the low employment rates in this group. Recommendations include:
- Provide tailored support in addition to set programmes – give individuals choice in what they access and when
- Take time to develop relationships with employers – change may take several years
- Recruit staff with a range of backgrounds and perspectives including those with first-hand sight loss experience
Alexa Sage of Visionary, a partner of Thomas Pocklington Trust, who managed the employment project says, “It’s been a joy to see the change in people’s lives through the work of the pilot. We encourage anyone supporting working age people with sight loss or supporting employers to read the report and contact us so we can share our expertise. Visionary has developed Guiding Principles based on the report recommendations – we want to see more employment programme providers succeed in supporting people with sight loss to gain and retain meaningful employment.”
For more information contact Alexa Sage at 07800 936 407 or Alexa.Sage@visionary.org.uk.
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