Chief Executive, BASE (British Association for Supported Employment)
Policy Manager, Assistive and Accessible Technology, Policy Connect
The disability employment gap is widening compared to previous years. At the same time, the UK is facing a labour crisis.
Assistive and accessible technology can transform the lives and careers of millions of disabled people and help tackle the UK’s labour challenge by unlocking disabled talent. However, many still lack the awareness and support to use this technology.
How supported employment can benefit workforces
Supported Employment is an evidence-based model, underpinned by strong values, to support disabled, neurodivergent and disadvantaged people into careers. The five-stage model focuses on high aspiration, matching the right people into the right role, building positive employer partnerships and providing ongoing support to enable all partners to flourish.
The model underpins many different employment pathways, including inclusive apprenticeships, supported internships and access to the labour market. Supported internships are a work-based study programme, with employment, that brings together partnerships for success, facilitated by the support of an expert job coach.
Technology, combined with human support, can help disabled talent to succeed by breaking down barriers at work. A phone app could be used to take a photo of a form or a label which could then read text out loud — helpful for some people who are neurodiverse, have a visual impairment or speak English as an additional language. However, many people in Supported Employment still don’t have the access and support to use technology that could benefit them.
The disability employment gap is widening compared to previous years.
Upskilling job coaches for ambitious careers for disabled people
The model has support from policymakers. In 2022, the Government launched a scheme to double the number of supported internships in England by 2025, including funding to invest in training 760 Job Coaches in England and introducing Universal Support.
As the Supported Employment sector scales up and improves the quality of services, we have an opportunity to build awareness about the benefits of technology in these placements. Nationally, we see a focus on inclusive recruitment. Yet, the employment rates for disabled and neurodivergent people remain incredibly low, despite over 75% of people being motivated to work.
By joining the dots between Supported Employment, accessible technology and a well-developed workforce, we can make a real difference in the lives of disabled people, their families and employers. This is more than getting people jobs — it is supporting people into careers where they will flourish.