European Social Fund (ESF) case study - Mencap NI - Employability2 Project

Mencap NI’s EmployAblity2 project supports people with a learning disability across Northern Ireland. The project is open to anyone with a learning disability who is over the age of 16, wants to work and can travel to a place of work. The project offers a range of support and activities to enable a person to build their employability skills and enhance their personal development through a person-centred approach.

The project is part funded through the Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme 2014–2020 and the Department for the Economy.

Participant's story

This participant was referred to Mencap NI by his social worker to enhance his weekly activities and support him to review his employment goals. At that time, he had four hours per week paid employment in a local garage/convenience store. Whilst he valued this employment, the participant felt restricted and unfulfilled in his work. His parents recognised that he was capable of much more but were mindful of protecting him from what they felt to be over ambitious goals and potential disappointment.

The participant said about his previous work,

“At the start it was pretty good, but you can’t help think, I could do more than this – let me do something else, maybe do some till work. My parents thought it would be good for me to get more hours in”.

Initially, the participant engaged in Mencap NI job club activities, helping him to increase his social interaction with others, build on existing employability skills and experience, engage in job searching activities, build self-confidence and focus on resilience to embrace change and new opportunities. He was encouraged to think positively about his own skills and qualities and he started to believe he was capable of more with the right support.

Work placement

The participant’s Mencap Employment Officer suggested trying a work placement in a large retailer to broaden his retail experience and skills. He agreed to this, with enthusiasm and some nervousness. His Employment Officer provided some learning disability awareness guidance to the participant’s colleagues who would be working alongside him, whilst agreeing specific tasks and support appropriate to the role. The participant settled in and quickly learned new skills in customer service, merchandising, team work and prioritising tasks. His work supervisor was highly impressed with his attitude to work, enthusiasm, dedication and communication skills. Very quickly he became part of the team.

After three months on work placement, the participant was made aware of an opportunity for seasonal part time paid work. His Mencap Employment Officer liaised with the store manager and Human Resources department to offer suggestions of reasonable adjustments during the recruitment process. The Employment Officer persevered with the reasonable adjustment requests and these were agreed with the employer. These adjustments included permission for the Employment Officer to attend the interview. Ultimately, the participant was successful in obtaining this paid post and continued to develop and progress within his role.

Securing permanent employment

After a few months, he was invited to apply for a permanent position at the store. He was successful and was delighted to secure the permanent part time post. The participant has since undertaken till training and has become a valued and reliable member of the team, responsible for some merchandising and stock rotation.

He says,

“I’m loving every second of my work. I’ve recently changed shifts and I’m enjoying working evenings because there is a mix of busy and quiet times which gives me a chance to focus on what tasks I need to do next.”

The participant’s parents have noted a significant increase in his self-confidence and attitude, saying,

“We are so grateful to Mencap and how they have helped him gain a sense of self-worth and belonging. He was always so aware of the achievements of his siblings but now he is eager to share work stories at the dinner table; he loves his work and takes great pride in all he does in his job”.

The participant acknowledges the help he received from Mencap.

“I wouldn’t have got the job without Mencap’s support. I have applied for jobs when it was just me and it did not go well. They have done well, they have been there, coached me, encouraged me and they have helped me get where I am.”

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