Sense: We give clients the tools to build independence and confidence

In October 2019 Thomas Pocklington Trust awarded national disability charity Sense a two-year funding package to deliver a new national employment programme. The project started in January 2020.


Zoe Bates sitting with her guide dogWe caught up with Zoe Bates, Employment/Benefits Co-ordinator, to see how the project was going and what had been achieved.


Sense’s employment programme supports people who are blind, partially sighted, deafblind and those with complex disabilities, whether they’re looking to get into the workplace for the first time or seeking information about support at work.


It helps individuals identify skills and aspirations and offers guidance on job searches, writing cover letters, CVs and job applications, interview techniques and the Access to Work* process.  It runs a Job Club once a month, advises on accessible equipment, assistive technology, benefits and concessions and supports people to find accredited training courses.



And the project has delivered some impressive results.  Between January 2020 and November 2021 Sense’s employment service:

  • Had 77 referrals, 30 people of which have now secured paid employment.
  • Supported individuals with 142 job applications resulting in 76 job interviews;
  • Supported 11 internship applications resulting in ten interviews – and half of these secured the roles.
  • Contributed to three people getting interviews for apprenticeships.
  • Helped 20 people to start training courses with six gaining Customer Service NVQ Level 2 and eight achieving Business Admin NVQ Level 2.
  • Enabled five people to gain valuable volunteering opportunities.
  • And supported a staggering 100 people with benefits advice.


The project was launched just before Covid and, although originally planned to be delivered in person, much of the service has had to run remotely.


Zoe said: “We ran an NVQ Business Administration level 2 course and an NVQ Customer Service level 2 and was ready to launch a third but this was postponed due to Covid.”


Before the pandemic and between lockdowns Sense invited people to visit its centre in Selly Oak, Birmingham, to try assistive technology such as Zoomtext, JAWS and magnifiers as well as practical aids like bump-ons and liquid level indicators.


It also provided advice to outside organisations such as Severn Trent Water, DWP, Nat Rail and Phoenix Training on inclusive employment.


Zoe explained: “Our Employability VI and Deaf Awareness Sessions include how to provide sighted guiding, assistive technology and Access to Work. Not enough organisations know about this grant that supports people with disabilities to secure and retain employment.”


Zoe is based in Birmingham and although the majority of her clients are in the West Midlands, she supports people from right across the UK.


Responding to how she has managed to achieve so much Zoe said: “I have a great Personal Assistant and good organisation is key!


“Being registered blind myself, I can be empathetic. I know how difficult it is to get into employment.  I also know what organisations are looking for in an interview. I’ve seen both sides.”


You can see Zoe’s passion for her role.  She said: “It’s so rewarding!  We are there to support but not do it for them. We give clients the tools to build their independence and confidence. The employment programme is bespoke to individuals. It’s all about listening, encouraging and networking. The feedback we have had has been really positive.”


She shared a few examples of how the programme has helped to change lives. One client, after losing his sight, was told by the Job Centre he now had to work in an office. He wanted to be able to keep working outside.  Sense supported him to get his CSCS card (enabling him to work on a building site), he has completed a course on plastering and is embarking on a new career.


They also supported a teacher who loved her job but stopped working because her sight had deteriorated. Now, with assistive technology, she has returned to teaching. She has a CCTV monitor that she can angle both at the children and close up at the work.


Although she leads the programme, Zoe praised the support she receives from the wider team at Sense.  She also agreed that, with almost £69K investment to the programme up to March 2021, this programme would not have been possible without the support from Thomas Pocklington Trust.


Read more about Sense’s Employment Programme:


About Sense

For everyone living with complex disabilities. For everyone who is deafblind. Sense is here to help people communicate and experience the world.

We help people develop the skills to enjoy everyday things like having a conversation, enjoying friendships and living independently. We believe that no one, no matter how complex their disabilities, should be isolated, left out, or unable to fulfil their potential.

We offer personalised and flexible services for everyone who needs us, for as long as they need us – providing early intervention for children, helping young people access education, and supporting the transition into adulthood and beyond.

We support people in their home and in the community, in their education and through our holidays, arts, sports and wellbeing programmes.


* Access to Work is a government grant scheme to support people with disabilities or health conditions start a new job or stay in work.

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