European Union of Supported Employment

Supported Employment is a dynamic process driven by the individual. A 5-stage process has been identified and acknowledged as a European model of good practice and one that can be used as a framework within Supported Employment. Within each of the 5 stages there is a wide range of activities, some will be unique to a specific disability group, others will be more general and will apply across all disadvantaged groups. Across all stages and activities, service providers should consider their timescales as an opportunity to take responsibility for not wasting the individual’s lifetime.

Stage 1 – Engagement

This stage probably provides the broadest range of activities, the majority of which will be unique not only to specific disability groups but may be also unique to individuals from any other disadvantaged groups. The core values of this stage are to provide accessible information in an appropriate manner and to support the individual to use the information and experiential learning to make informed choices. The activities in this stage must be relevant, person centred and part of an agreed plan of action to ultimately support the individual into open employment. It is expected that at the end of the engagement stage the individual will make an informed decision as to whether or not s/he wishes to use supported employment

Stage 2 – Vocational Profiling

The activities in this stage will provide an insight into aspects of the individual’s skills, abilities, strengths and weaknesses and will produce a detailed profile of employment related issues that will influence the remainder of the process. Supported employment gives job seekers the opportunity of actively selecting a job compatible with their interests, aspirations, needs, conditions and background experience. This planning process is based on an empowerment approach, in which participants are encouraged to make their own career choices and participate in the design of their own work project, in accordance with their interests and vocational aspirations. A Person Centred Planning approach should be fully adopted within this stage. to find work and whether s/he wishes to do so with that particular service provider.

Stage 3 - Job Finding

Job finding is a key stage where the activities involved can influence employers and secure employment for job seekers. There is no one best way to job search and Supported Employment providers must consider a range of activities that best suit the needs of the parties concerned.

It is not to say who should or should not conduct the job search but at all times the job seeker must remain in control of the activities and be given the fullest advice and be equipped to make informed choices.

Irrespective of the effects of disability or any other disadvantage, the ownership must rest with the job seeker, with the Supported Employment provider furnishing detailed guidance and advice.

There are, of course, a number of methods that can be used to identify a suitable job or employer through:

  • Compiling a Curriculum Vitae
  • Responding to job advertisements
  • Writing speculative letters to employers
  • Cold Calling
  • Job Tasters or Work Trials (both time limited)
  • Developing employer contacts and networks
  • Creating jobs by the supported employment provider

Stage 4 - Employer Engagement

The activities in this stage will depend on what format the engagement or meeting with the employer takes.

For the purposes of this work, there is an assumption that the Supported Employment professional and probably the job seeker will meet with the employer. This stage will determine what is potentially on offer from the employer.

Potential areas to be discussed will include:

  • Skills/experience required by employer
  • Hours of work (or Job Taster / Work Experience Placement)
  • Terms and Conditions of employment
  • Workplace culture
  • Support required by job seeker
  • Support available from Supported Employment provider
  • Support available from employer / co-workers
  • Issues surrounding disclosure
  • Awareness training for employer and co-workers
  • Health and Safety requirements
  • Availability of funding and support through Government Programmes
  • Guidance and advice to employers regarding their obligations / responsibilities under legislation.

Stage 5 - On/Off Job Support

The levels, amount and forms of support to be provided will depend upon the individual’s needs, abilities and employment situation. Support is a key feature of supported employment and is present at all stages of the process. Professional support should gradually fade and be replaced by support from co-workers. The levels of support and fading strategy should be planned and reviewed with co-workers, employer and the individual.

The provision of On or Off the job support enables the individual the opportunity to learn and perform appropriately, to be part of the work team, contribute to the company culture and also assists with career progression. It also provides the employer with a support mechanism and provides co-workers with knowledge and understanding, this in turn assists the development of natural support in the workplace.

The package of support measures to be provided should be person centred and flexible and could include:

On the Job Support

  • Guiding and assisting with social skills
  • Identifying a mentor/co-worker
  • Determining workplace culture
  • Supporting the client to adapt to the workplace
  • Providing support to the employer and work colleagues
  • Identifying workplace custom and practice
  • Identifying opportunities for career progression

Off the Job Support

  • Solving practical problems/issues (transport, work dress etc)
  • Discussing interpersonal work relationships
  • Assisting with welfare benefits bureaucracy
  • Maintaining liaison with Healthcare/Social Work professionals
  • Listening and advising regarding issues raised by service user