Access Dorset is a charity run by and for disabled people, older people and carers, offering peer-support, training, information, advice and advocacy, as well as a Centre for Independent Living, and more.
The charity won Skills & Opportunities funding for their SkillWorks project. Dave Thompson explains more:
“SkillWorks is a unique opportunity for disabled people and people with a long-term health condition to access structured support, goal setting, skills identification and accredited training to overcome barriers and return to employment.
“Our target was to build on and complement our existing ‘Journey to Employment’ Social Job Club to provide 48 unemployed disabled people with an opportunity to engage with each other in a peer support setting and to address motivation, confidence, self-esteem, and self-management issues.”
During the SkillsWorks programme, participants worked towards an accredited Award in Employability, gaining skills to support progress into further adult education, voluntary work and employment.
Participant, Karen, has gone on to find employment following the programme. She shares her experience:
“I have thoroughly enjoyed SkillWorks and feel that I’ve really turned the corner in regaining confidence in my ability to overcome personal barriers. The job that I am starting… is like a dream come true and I’m convinced that focusing on what we learnt in the interview practice sessions helped me to overcome my nerves and stay on track.”
Since completing the programme, all 48 participants have reported increased confidence, self-esteem and health and wellbeing; most have left with improved CVs and improved interview skills, and 30 participants are more economically active.
One participant, Colin, has decided to start his own gardening business after receiving training and mentoring through SkillWorks:
“I really appreciate all the support and encouragement provided. I think that sharing my horticultural experiences with other people will help me to build up the confidence to that next big step – starting my own business.”
The organisation itself has also benefitted greatly from running the project,” as Dave explains:
“The NatWest Skills & Opportunities Fund grant came at a critical time… It’s allowed us to further develop our employability skills programmes and consolidate our role as a key local provider of training and support services to disabled people and people with long-term health conditions.
“We’re also pleased that the project has enabled us to consolidate a number of strong partnerships with statutory and voluntary sector organisations, as well as with local businesses. The voluntary input of occupational therapy trainees from Bournemouth University and a work coach from Bournemouth JCP has also enhanced the quality of support we could provide.
“Too often disabled people feel ignored, discarded and not seriously supported to develop their vocational skills. We have received very positive feedback from our participants and are committed to continuing to engage with those who require further support, to maintain their progress.”
Participant Ian sums up what the SkillsWorks programme has meant for him:
“I can’t believe how far I’ve travelled. When I started I had no idea I would be able to achieve what I have done with your help.”