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Millions of pounds pumped into project helping disabled people into work

PUBLISHED: 06:00 19 October 2019

The Work Well Suffolk scheme aims to help people with disabilities into work. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCK PHOTO

The Work Well Suffolk scheme aims to help people with disabilities into work. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCK PHOTO

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A project to help disabled people into work is set to be launched countywide in January after securing £2million in European cash.

Mary Evans said the projwct would work with employers. Picture: SIMON LEE PHOTOGRAPHY/SCCMary Evans said the projwct would work with employers. Picture: SIMON LEE PHOTOGRAPHY/SCC

The Work Well Suffolk project will help those who struggle most to get work, such as those with disabilities, autism and musculoskeletal conditions, into employment through skills workshops, advice and employability sessions.

The scheme was inspired by the Haverhill Lifelink project and will be rolled out countywide from January 2020.

It secured £2m in European Social Fund grants and a further £2m of local funding.

Conservative councillor Mary Evans, Suffolk County Council's cabinet member for children's services, education and skills, said: "This is an incredibly exciting project, taking a dynamic approach to supporting the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in Suffolk with their employment opportunities.

Kathy Bole said it needed to avoid the pitfalls of other projects. Picture: GREGG BROWNKathy Bole said it needed to avoid the pitfalls of other projects. Picture: GREGG BROWN

"By looking at someone's circumstances holistically, Work Well Suffolk will be able to support them in many aspects of their life, from leading a healthy lifestyle to advice on housing and debt.

"By helping people to achieve stability in many aspects of their lives, the project can help them realise employment opportunities which they may have felt beyond their reach.

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"We will be working with local employers who are offering to take on long-term unemployed persons or those with complex barriers to work through.

"Work Well Suffolk will identify local vacancies and match participants' skills to real job opportunities."

The scheme had been due to begin earlier but a delay in ESF cash meant it could not begin until January, but will run for three years according to project bosses.

Haverhill Lifelink, which was funded by Suffolk's public sector leaders, worked as a social prescribing project to help more than 130 people into work, while Work Well Suffolk is set to be based more on employability skills.

Councillor Kathy Bole, Labour spokeswoman for disabilities, said: "Any funding to support disabled people into suitable employment is welcomed as it is badly needed.

"However, previous council schemes of this type have failed because the jobs provided didn't pay well enough, weren't permanent and because employers were not supported through the process. Any programme must also include support for employers to retain employees with newly acquired disabilities.

"We therefore seek assurances this current project will deliver stable, living-wage, permanent jobs with continuing support to both the employers and the employees. And it can't be one size fits all.

"Additionally, there should be no reduction in anyone's social services support by stealth.

"Disabled people who receive benefits such as Universal Credit risks seeing their claim stopped or reduced by participating in a 'work training system', throwing family budgets into turmoil - we have all seen the stories of people pushed into further poverty waiting for money. We mustn't make this problem worse."

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