Podcast Episode: The East Project: supported employment
What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.
MM - Michael McEwan
EH - Emma Hill
MM We are here in the East Project in East Renfrewshire with the Project Coordinator, Emma Hill. So Emma, first tell us a bit about the project.
EH Yes, absolutely - the project is called the East Project - we have just began in East Renfrewshire in about September of this year. It’s a supported employment project, so we help individuals with learning disabilities and learning difficulties between the ages of 18-30 to look for employment opportunities - and that can be work experience, right up to paid employment. We focus on interview skills, job applications, CV building, but we also touch on travel training, money management, time management - we are really, really tailored to the individual’s needs. So whatever they need, we will try our best to help them get into paid employment.
MM So whereabouts does your funding come from and how many years have you got the funding for?
EH We are funded by the Big Lottery Fund and we are funded for 5 years.
MM 5 years, that’s a long time.
EH It’s quite a long time.
MM Yes, so can you tell us when East … I know East Renfrewshire, but other parts of Scotland where you do this project?
EH Absolutely, so we are a pilot project at the moment - so we have began the one in East Renfrewshire and we have an office space in Barrhead, and the other project is run in East Dunbartonshire, and that is based in Kirkintilloch. So we are split between the 2 just now.
MMWhat happens when people come to you then? Can you give us a wee bit of background about that?
EH Yes, so the initial stage when individuals come to us - we go through a little interview just to see if they are happy with the service that we provide, to see if we can work together. Then after that we will do some different activities, just to get to know each other a little better and find out what types of jobs the person would be interested in doing. And then after that we focus on kind of action planning. So we will set out targets and goals, depending on what that person needs - because everyone is at really different stages. We will then decide what they need to do, what we can support them in - and that will usually take the form of one to one meetings once a week, for about an hour a week. And after that we have also tried to arrange some group activities - so we had a Halloween one, we have got a Christmas one coming up, just to get everyone to meet each other so everyone can get a more wider social circle as well. And in those activity kind of days we do money management and time management and things like that. But mostly it’s a one to one session and that can take place over about 12 to 18 months.
MM How do you market this project? How do you reach out to different people?
EH Just me - we just call … because we are such a new project in East Renfrewshire, the first few weeks we set aside time to try and just speak to the local kind of employability services, speak to the local schools and colleges. We also spoke to local employers and things as well, so everyone was aware that we were here for that service. We also spoke to yourself in ERDA, we spoke to other disability action groups - East Renfrewshire Carers, RAMH, a whole host of different organisations - I have a list as long as my arm, I’ll tell you. And it was just really researching and spending the time to really get to know the area. Just travelling about, seeing what was in East Renfrewshire - because it’s such a wide area as well, so we really wanted to get to know the place, find out what services were already available, be that youth groups, youth clubs, drama groups, a whole range of things, sports clubs as well. And then we just phoned, arranged meetings as well and just went to present to team meetings and things like that at the Job Centres, Skills Development Scotland, the list goes on.
MM And how was the response when you went to the Job Centre and Self Directed Support? Were they were supportive of what you were …
EH Absolutely, everyone has been so welcoming. I think there has been such a lack of this service before in the area, so us being here has just … everyone has really welcomed us with open arms - everyone has been so excited about the project. It did take a slightly longer time to kind of get off the ground, just purely because it is so new. But we have definitely - we are on the way just now, and we have really close ties with everyone as well - we have developed a really great working relationship. And if there is any problems, people just phone - pick up the phone and ask - if there is ever any queries about referrals and things. So we have been really, really welcomed into the area, which is great.
MM And if you get a good response from East Renfrewshire, are you going to go onto other areas?
EH I mean hopefully, absolutely, if the funding is there and this project and the one in East Dunbartonshire is proven to be successful, then absolutely - hopefully it will open the doors to try and expand it a bit further. There is, you know, different areas have their own services, but absolutely - if the opportunity came and we could get the funding, then I don’t see why not - we would like to try and support as many people as possible.
MM And when the people come to you, how long do you work with them? Is there a time limit on it?
EH Yes, so when individuals come along we can work with them for up to 12 to 18 months. So as I said, every person is different - that could be one person could only stay a few months and they would be in paid employment - quite happy to do that. For other individuals it could take slightly longer - we will also try and organise work experience placements, work tasters as well - because a lot of times you don’t know what you want to do as a job, so we will try and arrange work tasters which can take a week, it can take 8 weeks, it just really depends. So depending on what the individual needs, we will do the work experience, work placements, and then as well, when they are actually into paid employment, if that takes the 12 months, that’s absolutely fine. But no matter how long it takes, we’re there. And then for 6 months after they are in paid employment, we then do an aftercare programme as well which includes job coaching, it includes employer training, it includes health and safety training, things like that. And if there is any kind of employer issues in work as well, we can go as an advocacy kind of service as well to try and sort that out as best we can.
MM Do you think there are any barriers in the way that are stopping people with a disability or mental health getting into work?
EH Yes, I mean I find particularly in East Renfrewshire the travel has became quite a huge issue in getting from either side of the local authority - that has definitely been a barrier for a lot of people in East Renfrewshire particularly. We have tried to overcome that with the travel training, but a lot of the time there is just a lack of public transport here. So that has proven to be a barrier, particularly in this area. In general, I think it is really just a lack of kind of understanding and a lack of awareness from employers’ point of view, from colleagues’ point of view as well. I think it has just been a kind of lack of awareness - but that is hopefully what we are there to do as well, and do awareness training and things too, to try and overcome those barriers.
MM And do you think that the people that you work with, that their confidence has kind of grown over time?
EH Yes, absolutely, absolutely - a lot of the guys that I have worked with, from the first time we met, maybe in October, you know, really, really shy, wouldn’t really like to kind of open up - to now where we are in group activities of more than kind of 15 people - and you can see their confidence building day on day, and to then develop that confidence enough to go into a new workplace, which is … for anyone, is really, really scary - it’s really intimidating. But to see the confidence building, I think it definitely builds from this project, absolutely.
MM So would you say the feedback has been positive? I mean obviously the employers, the people you work with, but also the parents maybe or the support staff?
EH Yes, I think on the whole it has been positive, yes, definitely. There has been … for any parent when your child is about to flee the nest it can be quite a scary time. But that’s a natural kind of … that’s absolutely understandable. So there are those natural kind of barriers, absolutely - but on the whole it has been very, very positive, and a lot of parents have kind of welcomed us because the individuals that we work with are kind of 18-30, and there are some over 30 as well. So they might not have had that support before. So now that we are here, they are definitely very positive about it.
MM So have you got a website or anything?
EH We can be found at the Enable website, which is www.enable.org.uk - there isn’t a direct link to the East Project, but I can leave my name and number and email address with you and we will also set up a Facebook page so that people can contact us that way too. But if anyone is interested, they just have to give us a call and we can arrange a meeting and see if they are interested in starting a project.
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