Securing a work placement is a vital first step towards employment for people with a disability. That’s according to Rethink Ireland and financial services group State Street who are marking the first year of a €1.5 million Fund that empowers people with disabilities to gain employment.
Despite challenges, in the Fund’s first year in operation:
- 46 people with disabilities secured a work placement.
- 117 people with disabilities undertook workplace training.
- 77 people with disabilities participated in an Employability Pathways programme.
Rethink Ireland created the Ability to Work Fund in partnership with State Street and the Government of Ireland. It provides €1.5 million funding over three years to four not-for-profit organisations – WALK, Employability Pathways, Not So Different, and the UCC Disability Support Service Mentoring Programme – who are helping develop the talents and skills to those living with a disability.
People with a disability are half as likely to be in employment as others of working age, according to the National Disability Authority, and the Covid-19 pandemic created particular challenges for organisations working to support people with a disability access employment.
Minister for Justice, Social Protection, and Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys TD, commented: “My Department is delighted to support the Ability to Work Fund. The Fund is supporting some fantastic not-for-profit organisations who do vital work in providing services and supports to people with disabilities to help them access employment opportunities. Initiatives such as the Ability to Work Fund can play a significant role in tackling the barriers to employment faced by people with disabilities.”
Deirdre Mortell, CEO of Rethink Ireland explained how the Ability to Work Fund awardees adapted to the challenge and embraced technology to continue their service delivery at a virtual event to mark the first year of the Fund.
She said, “Securing work placements and in-person activity prove vital to create opportunities for people with a disability to gain experience in the workplace and take the first step towards employment.
“Over the past year, many non-profit organisations were forced to move operations online and opportunities for in-person work experience reduced greatly. Despite the challenges, all awardees involved with the Ability to Work Fund showed high levels of adaptability.
“New technologies such as augmented reality and online learning platforms were also important. They created opportunities for learning and for reaching people furthest from the open labour market. WALK reported that 20 participants completed work experience placements, of which 50% of these participants avail of support technology to aid their learning and training.”
Commenting on State Street’s support for the Ability to Work Fund, Tadhg Young, Ireland Country Head, State Street, said: “Through the Ability to Work Fund, State Street hopes to enable more people with a visible or invisible disability to access and gain employment. State Street’s corporate responsibility activity in Ireland centres on employment skills, training and integration programmes, to contribute to the health and well-being of our local communities, and to reach those that are most disadvantaged or marginalised. The Ability to Work Fund is a key initiative in our CSR strategy and enables awardees to progress along the pathways to employment, return to employment or upskill.
These core values are embedded throughout our CSR activity and company culture, having invested over $6 million in community grants and a further $1.1 million in matching gifts in Ireland since 2003. In addition, State Street employees have volunteered in excess of 60,000 hours in the same period. This includes supporting work experience as part of NEIC initiative, Special Olympics Ireland and St. Vincent de Paul as well as the UCC DSS Mentoring programme through the Ability to Work Fund.”
Irish disability activist Paddy Smyth was MC for the event. He said, “It is inspiring to see the positive impact of the Ability to Work Fund. Increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities is one of the most pressing social issues facing our society. Businesses can help address this by making a stronger effort to provide employment opportunities for people with disabilities.”
For more information please visit: https://rethinkireland.ie/awarded_fund/ability-to-work-fund-2020-2023/