New programme launches in West of England to help people with learning difficulties access employment: WE WORK for Everyone

02 Mar 2021

Education, Learning and Skills

New programme launches in West of England to help people with learning difficulties access employment

People with learning difficulties or disabilities in the West of England will benefit from a new programme to help them secure paid employment.

The WE WORK for Everyone three-year programme will offer specialist careers guidance to over 2,000 people with complex learning needs. A total of £4.4m of funding has been secured, including £2.2m from the European Social Fund, £1.3m from the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) Investment Fund and additional funding from the region’s councils.

The project is being co-ordinated by Bristol City Council, working in collaboration with the West of England local authorities. Employment Navigators provide one-to-one support and work closely with individuals to develop a plan that meets their specific needs and goals. Those taking part can expect a wide range of education and training to help them find and maintain work.

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “To ensure an inclusive recovery we will need to focus on building skills and improving pathways to work for groups already on the edge of the economy. As unemployment rates rise over the coming year, unfortunately we know people who already experience discrimination and disadvantage in the workplace will be hit hardest.

“WE WORK for Everyone is a way we can enable people to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence to access employment. Giving people access to jobs increases people’s independence, improves social mobility, wellbeing and improved outcomes for employers. This is an example of how we can use the city’s recovery from the pandemic to leverage real change and put our values of inclusion at the heart.” 

Data from British Association for Supported Employment suggests that up to 10 per cent of the population in the UK has a learning difficulty, however, the employment rate for people with learning difficulties is only 5.7 per cent, with 71 per cent of those working for less than 16 hours per week.

West of England Mayor, Tim Bowles, said: “Everyone deserves the chance to secure a decent, well paid job, no matter what their background or challenges. WE WORK for Everyone gives that chance to West of England residents who have learning disabilities providing them with dedicated and intensive support to help them get into and stay in work.

“This scheme adds to the package of measures to kick-start the West of England’s economic recovery and make sure our residents have the skills and advice they need to get on.”

Supporting disadvantage groups into employment and strengthening inclusion are key priorities for the West of England Regional Recovery Plan and One City Recovery and Renewal Strategy.

Councillor Toby Savage, leader of South Gloucestershire Council, said: “We want to do all we can to support people from disadvantaged backgrounds into secure employment. The WE WORK for Everyone programme will offer a wide range of education and training to specifically help people with learning difficulties find and keep jobs. The one to one support and specialist guidance offered will help develop the skills and confidence required and will include a tailored plan that meets the individual’s needs and aspirations.

Councillor Don Davies, Leader of North Somerset Council, said: “This programme is a welcome development for those traditionally disadvantaged in the jobs market. I hope that many will apply and benefit from WE WORK for Everyone which should provide more life chances with its carefully targeted support.”

Councillor Dine Romero, leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, said; “This is really positive news and so good that the programme will start to give people, who have a learning disability or difficulty, specialist and practical support to increase their chances of good paid employment.”

People living in Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset, South Gloucestershire or North Somerset, who have a learning disability or difficulty can apply. They can self-refer or can be referred by a professional, parent or carer.

To find more information about how you can apply for the programme, visit the Ways to Work website, email weworkforeveryone@bristol.gov.uk or call 0117 922 3330.