Hackney Works Supported Employment Service

This month we are profiling Caoimhe McKenna, Supported Employment Team Leader and Hackney Works Supported Employment Service – an organisation that supports Hackney residents with learning disabilities, autism and mental health conditions to gain and sustain paid employment.

1. What does your charity do?
The Supported Employment Service supports Hackney residents with learning disabilities, autism and mental health conditions to gain and sustain paid employment. A specialist supported employment advisor provides person-centred support to each resident to help them develop their CV, apply for jobs, prepare for interviews, disclose a health condition to an employer and agree to reasonable adjustments in the workplace if needed.

Alongside the one-to-one support offered, Hackney Works hosts weekly workshops for our service users focused on employability, building their confidence and supporting their mental health. We work closely with local partners such as Talk Changes, Able Futures and Access to Work to ensure our residents feel fully supported to achieve their employment goals and aspirations.

Once a service user is supported to secure a paid job we provide further in-work support to ensure they sustain their employment. This could include travel training, access to specialist technology and job coaching.

Our service has supported many residents with learning disabilities, autism and mental health conditions into jobs over the past year in sectors such as retail, hospitality, administration, technology and construction.

2. What are the challenges your service users face, and how does your organisation help users overcome them?
Our service users often face many barriers when it comes to securing employment. The standard recruitment process can be very challenging for some of our clients with additional needs. The Supported Employment Service works closely with employers to discuss alternative recruitment options, such as work trials or a working interview. Our service offers Learning Disability Awareness training to employers to better their understanding when supporting someone with a disability in the workplace.

A lack of confidence and social connection is another challenge that our service users are faced with, especially throughout the pandemic. Our service hosted weekly virtual coffee mornings and job clubs to ensure our clients had regular social interaction with others. We host fortnightly Work and Wellbeing Workshops, and have held sessions on relaxation and stress management, mindfulness and building resilience.

Many of our service users have faced digital exclusion and are unable to apply for jobs if they do not have access to technology. In the pandemic we worked closely with a construction company in Hackney to run a virtual work placement that resulted in seven of our clients receiving new laptops. This enabled them to meet with their advisor virtually, search and apply for jobs, attend online interviews – and three of those clients were successful in securing paid jobs following this.

3) Do you have an inspirational story/moment about your work that you would like to share?
One of our clients, Adam Hollingworth, began his journey with the Supported Employment team in 2019. He initially completed a supported internship with Hackney Council, where he had the opportunity to complete three work placements in different council teams, which developed his confidence, his professionalism in the workplace and many more transferable skills. Adam was supported by a job coach and graduated from the programme in July 2019.

Following on from the programme, Adam was supported by his advisor to apply for jobs, attend interviews and work trials. He persevered through a few setbacks where he wasn’t successful at the interview. With the advice and guidance from the Supported Employment Service, he continued to put his focus into securing a paid role.

In May 2021 Adam was supported to apply for a Gardening Assistant role with the Hackney Council Parks team. Adam attended weekly employability job clubs hosted by the Supported Employment team, where he prepared for his interview. Following a successful interview process, Adam was offered the position in September 2021 and has been a member of the Parks team for five months. Adam said he is ‘over the moon and very proud!’ He worked hard and showed dedication, which all paid off. We are all very proud of Adam!

If you are a Hackney resident looking for help with your employment goals Register with Hackney Works here

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