Pathway to Employment – The Ability to Work Fund

29th October 2023

Posted In: The Topic

Over 1,000 people with disabilities were supported on the pathway to employment through the Ability to Work Fund over the past three years.

The Ability to Work Fund is a €1.5 million fund created by Rethink Ireland in partnership with State Street and the Government of Ireland to open pathways to employment by investing in organisations that provide training, upskilling and education.

The fund allowed for an increase in service levels, expanding reach to open employment opportunities for people with disabilities, nurturing their talent and matching them with progressive companies and organisations.

The four organisations supported through the fund were Cork University Foundation’s Disability Support Service Mentoring ProgrammeNot So Different, a group supporting new neurodiverse students to develop their creative skills in a supported environment; Dublin Simon Community for people with a disability experiencing homelessness; and Walkinstown Association for People with an Intellectual Disability’s Creating Employment PATHways Through Technology Project.

Since the launch of the fund in 2021, the four awarded organisations have implemented a range of innovative initiatives and support projects in direct response to the employment and equality needs of people with disabilities. Participants were enabled to access the workplace via the programmes.

Key achievements enabled under the Ability to Work Fund were:

•Cork University Foundation’s Disability Support Service Mentoring Programme matches students with disabilities with professional mentors. The programme supports students to increase their ability to secure employment through 1:1 mentoring and access to employability experiences in employer organisations and engages employers to provide opportunities for students with a disability and in so doing, to make meaningful changes to their recruitment & selection practices. Through the funding, 337 mentoring partnerships were facilitated between students and corporate mentors.

Not So Different {NSD} supported neurodiverse students to develop their creative skills in a supported environment. A key aspect of the Creative Ability Hub is the showcasing of student work, allowing students’ families, their educators and their prospective employers to learn more about neurodiversity. Through the Fund, Not So Different were also able to increase their employer network and support their capacity to work with neurodiverse employees, through the development of a CPD accredited training offering. A total of 34 students were supported through the Creative Ability Hub and 5 employers were engaged.

•Dublin Simon Community Employability Pathways Programme gives personalised employment support to individuals with a disability who are also experiencing homelessness. The programme improves job-readiness and develops skills through literacy, numeracy and IT classes. In total 528 learners engaged on the Employability Pathways Programme and 614 sessions were delivered as part of the Employability Pathways Programme.

•WALK’s Creating Employment PATHways Through Technology Project used the funding to recruit additional members and provide a more cost-effective and tailored service. The technology platform provides job coaches the tools and resources needed to create vocational profiles for their clients. Overall, 148 participants engaged in WALK’s CEPTT programme, 74 people with disabilities were supported into paid employment, and 45 people with disabilities were supported into work experience with a view to gaining paid employment.

Deirdre Mortell, CEO, Rethink Ireland commented:

“We know that almost two thirds of people with disabilities are unemployed in Ireland. This is unacceptably low when we know that people with disabilities have a right to equal employment opportunities. The Ability to Work Fund is one step towards addressing this.”

Terri Dempsey, COO, State Street Ireland said: “We are delighted to partner with Rethink Ireland to support more than 1,000 people with disabilities into employment where barriers too often limit opportunities. Over the past three years, State Street has worked closely with Rethink Ireland to identify and back the most impactful organisations who are tackling the issue of disability unemployment. Several employees from State Street took part in the UCC Disability Support Service Mentoring Programme, the personal stories and positive influence of the training, mentoring and work experience creates a lasting ripple effect for everyone.

Our mentors gained as much from the experience as the mentees. The impact of the Ability to Work fund has been remarkable; the data and statistics speak for themselves.”

Pictured (left to right): Aoife Canning, Job Coach, WALK; Sheryl McCann, Project Lead, WALK; Deirdre Mortell, CEO, Rethink Ireland; Katie Sheehan, Manager of Client Development Services, Dublin Simon Community; Terri Dempsey, Chief Operating Officer, State Street Ireland and Deirdre Lynch, CEO, Not So Different. Pic: Marc O’Sullivan