Employability is supported by The Department of Social Protection. It provides job coaching on topics such as CV and Cover Letter building, job searching, and interview practise for people who have a disability and are unemployed. Through the The Department of Social Protection Wage Subsidy Scheme they can also provide a grant to employers of up to €10,748 to anyone who employs someone from the service for a contract for more that six months and a minimum of 21 hours per week. We interviewed their program co-ordinator Kathryn Heaney to find out more.
- When was the company formed, how did it grow into what it is now
Dublin South Supported Employment now EmployAbility Service Dublin South started as a pilot program recruiting staff from different disability services almost 20 years ago. We are now part of a national Employment Service with 23 EmployAbility Organisations throughout Ireland.
- Explain Employability? What’s your USP?
EmployAbility Service work with jobseekers who are facing barriers to employment due to a disability of any nature, illness, injury or who are recovering from poor mental health.
I believe our USP is that we are client focused. We work on a one-to-one basis with both the jobseeker and the employer to try to facilitate the best match and offer the support required. We take time to really get to know the person we are supporting and to try to find a job that matches their interests and abilities.
- How can the job coaching aspect of the company improve the participants’ job prospects?
Our Job Coaches focus on getting to know and building trust with the participant/job seeker. This is very beneficial as we are then in a better position to really support the participant and sell their skills and abilities to potential employers. Often the recruitment process is the most challenging part for any jobseeker, and a major element of the Job Coach’s role is to help motivate participants, and help build their confidence, as well as helping with CV and interview preparation. Sometimes support is needed after a participant finds a job, in this case the Job Coach is available to support the participant in transitioning into their employment.
- Often people with disabilities can be discriminated against in the workplace. When do you advise to broach the Wage Subsidy Scheme with the employer?
When EmployAbility engages with employers about recruiting someone with a disability, we will explain the supports available to them, one of which is the Wage Subsidy Scheme. This incentive is available to private sector employers who employ someone with a disability for a minimum of 21 hours per week. It is a financial incentive of €5.30 per hour towards the employee’s wage.
Depending on the situation and if additional support is required, we will advise on a number of grants available to the employer to help accommodate their new employee. The Wage Subsidy Scheme may be applied for within the first year of employment.
- Are there any success stories you’re particularly proud of?
There are so many! If you were to speak to our team they could tell you of 100’s, but a few are:
One job coach is delighted when she sees her participant of 18 years ago still working in retail. The participant has a intellectual disability and had never worked before. The job coach approached the manager who agreed to a trial for 4 hours per week to start. The job coach supported the participant every step of the way and would often meet with her just before her shift to see if she needed any support or guidance and would speak to the manager to check that everything was going well. 18 years later and she is still working there, worker longer hours but still part time and she is very much a valued member of the team. This participant was so thrilled to get this job and it not only changed her life, but impacted her family in so many positive ways.
A man who spent 20 years working in bar service knew he wasn’t suited to the job, because he experienced social anxiety and difficulties with interpersonal communication. He had worked hard to gain a qualification in accounting, but didn’t feel confident he could work in the area. He received a diagnosis of autism at the age of 40, this made him more self-aware and encouraged him to seek support from EmployAbility service. He got support with his CV, his cover letter and had regular meetings and interview practice with his Job Coach. He walked door to door in his local area, encouraged by his Job Coach, and after his 4th interview he got offered an Accounts Assistant role in a top Accounting firm. He has been working there for 3 years now and his confidence has blossomed.
Another example is of a gentleman who has mental health issues. He was a tradesman who was great with his hands and loved work, but found working with other people or in an enclosed environment very difficult. His job coach approached a business who sold and repaired furniture and asked if they would give him the opportunity of a trial for a few weeks. They were very accommodating. They allowed a separate work area and were flexible with his starting time in the morning. They were thrilled with the work he produced and offered him a job. He was delighted to be working again and earning some money. After a few months he was a changed man. Working gave him back his sense of pride and purpose.
- What are some of the resistance to the scheme that you’ve come across? How do you go about dispelling those?
I think some employers have fears around time and cost of employing someone with a disability. It is part of our role as advocates to help alleviate and dispel those fears and misunderstandings. One key element of EmployAbility Service is that we are accountable and approachable, so all employers we have worked with know they can come to us for honest and reliable advice and support. There are also a number of grants and incentives available through the Department of Social Protection that we can help support employers to apply for. You will find all the information on our brochure.
- What are some of the most common issues your user base have for not finding employment. How can you create the confidence in them to apply for more jobs?
The most common issue is the lack of suitable positions available. Although we have a number of employers we are in touch with, unfortunately we don’t have a bank of employers who are waiting on our call to fill a position. This can be frustrating for people who think that by having the support of a Job Coach, that they will immediately find a suitable job. Where appropriate, our Job Coaches can advocate directly to companies and HR departments on behalf of participants/job seekers. Where necessary, the Job Coach can act as mediator between the job seeker and the employer and try to negotiate regarding reasonable accommodations and supports on the job, for the mutual benefit of the employer and job seeker. In this way, the EmployAbility Service is like a reinforcement support which instils confidence in its participants; Job Coaches can empower participants to continue applying for jobs, despite barriers. Additionally, the Job Coach may suggest training to gain additional skills, or participation in group workshops to help with confidence building, for example, Jobs Club which is run by Southside Partnership.
- How did the pandemic affect your services?
Like everyone, it affected how we work day-to-day. As we provide such a personalised and individualised support, we would have always met our participants face to face. Obviously with the pandemic, this had to change, and we had to adapt very quickly to video calls or phone calls for meetings, whichever method would be most suitable and accessible for the participant. Generally, in certain sectors affected by lockdowns, there has been a decrease in recruitment. As well as this, there is understandable reluctance among some participants to apply for jobs due to the associated health risks of contracting Covid19.
- What are some of the organisation goals for 2021?
We hope to build on our promotion of the Service in 2021 to let people know that we are a FREE service for anyone with a disability, illness, injury or recovering from poor mental health, who would like some support in finding employment. We have a team of skilled and experienced Job Coaches eager to support people to find the right role. After this time of reflection, it is evident from various online webinars and discussions that the topic of diversity and inclusion in the workplace has come to the forefront for employers. We are looking forward to the lifting of restrictions and going back to working 1:1 with participants and employers in the community.
- Are there any other companies in the diversity and inclusion space you are particularly a fan of?
Jobs Club, Southside Partnership
Ahead (WAM programme)