Ambitions and Cornwall Council deliver Workshop at The British Association of Supported Employment (BASE) Annual Conference

5th November 2019

The British Association of Supported Employment (BASE) held its two-day Annual Conference at The Mecure Hotel, Manchester Piccadilly on 5-6 November 2019. Over 150 people attended from all over the United Kingdom.

Guest speakers included: Matthew Wood (Millwood Servicing Ltd); Keith Mayne (XPO Logistics); Huw Davies (CEO, BASE); Claire Cookson (CEO, DFN Charitable Foundation); Geena Vabulas (Policy Connect); Sarah Carter (Learning Disabilities and Disabilities Manager, National Apprenticeship Service) ;Maurice George / James Whybra (Brookfields School and The Castle School, West Berkshire); Francesca Martinez (Comedian & writer).

There were 20 workshops delivered by BASE members that each delegate had the opportunity to attend:

Access to Work  
Ross Blight / Mick Donelan (DWP)

Introducing the self-employment option
Alex Seddon (Discovery) / Keith Bates (Mutually Inclusive Partnerships)

Quality assurance in Supported Employment services
Kathy Melling / David Stenning (BASE)

Digital self-management for workplace anxiety
Sarah Hutchings / Sarah Todd (Brain in Hand)

Alternative funding - thinking out of the box
Karen Davies / Eleanor Brick (Pembrokeshire County Council)

Commissioning Supported Employment in devolved administrations
Anna Twelves (Greater Manchester Combined Authority) / Huw Davies (BASE)

Reflections on 30 years of systematic instruction
Rob Henstock / Sue Henstock (Changing Futures)

When supply chains fail
Julia Green/Holly Kelleher BASE

Empowering communication in SEND transitions
Lucy Alexander (Books Beyond Words)

The Value of the Disability Confident Action Group  
Emma Shepherd (Croydon Council)

Successful Collaboration with a Global Business in a Growth Employment Sector
Maureen McHugh (DFN Project Search) / Gemma Gallagher (Marriott Hotels)

Accessible Employment
Nick Bailey / Jacqueline Chantler (Cornwall Council)

Graduation to Employment; supporting autistic students and university careers services
Emily Collins / Bethan Read (United Response)

Back to Basics: The 5 stages of Supported Employment
Holly Kelleher (BASE)

Future proofing the UK’s Supported Businesses and Social Enterprises
Melanie Walls (BASE) / Helen Froggatt (DWP)

Raising Aspirations for Adults with a Learning Disability
Su Jarmulewski (Northamptonshire County Council)

Autism and inclusion in the workplace
Hilary Fertig (Employment Autism) / Judith Kerem (Care Trade) 

Inclusive apprenticeships
Claire Gardner (Dynamic Training) 

Measuring outcomes within a conversation – The Pathway Star
Graham Randles / Juliet Kemp (Triangle Consulting Social Enterprise) 

Closing the disability employment gap; where do Supported Businesses and Social Enterprises fit?
Martin Davies / Richard Welfoot / Will Gardner (Supported Business Steering Group) 


The BASE Conference was the perfect event for reflective practice, to ask questions, explore and discuss new ideas, swap best practice and be inspired.

Cornwall Council’s Ambitions team learned useful information on the national landscape of supported employment initiatives that can now be shared with Ambitions Partners.

Ambitions SEND Employability and Employment Lead Jacqueline Chantler, teamed up with Cornwall Council’s Supported Internships Coordinator Nick Bailey, to deliver a workshop on Accessible Employment. The aims of the workshop were to get a strong understanding of what we mean by ‘accessible employment’; recognise the barriers and ‘taken for granted’, ‘business as usual’ practices that deter and prevent many from engaging; share practice and ideas that can overcome those barriers that employers will adopt.

A presentation of the different strategies used in Cornwall was delivered and delegates were then asked to consider in 3 different groups:

  1. Examples of less or inaccessible employment practice – Why doesn’t it work for everyone?
  2. Examples of good employment practice – Why is it good? What are the characteristics of ‘good’? How can it be shared and transferred to other settings?
  3. What can you do as practitioners to make employment more accessible?

The information captured from the workshop is contained below:

 1. Less Accessible Employment Practices
 The use of scenario questions on application form/recruitment website which preclude those with limited or no employment experience who are unable to relate to the question, the situation described or have knowledge of potential responses.
 No opportunity or place on applications to explain why some things can’t be done because of the limitations or conditions of the applicant(s).
 No contact details/means of contacting HR to ask questions, check things ask for help or clarification.
 Asking for/expecting phone interviews – non-verbal clients!
 Using ‘Health and Safety’ as an excuse rather than being prepared to make adjustments (e.g. pictograms instead of written instructions)
 Sticking with systematic processes/checks regardless of how difficult or inappropriate/irrelevant these might be (‘one size fits all’ approach to recruitment)
 Employer not being flexible and unwilling to accommodate people’s needs during the application, selection and recruitment phases of employment.
 2-week intensive courses not accessible for some clients
 Recruitment advertisements that use complex language/jargon that is inaccessible to many we work with
 The council relaxing recruitment barriers but not getting appointing managers trained to understand and be aware of inclusive recruitment techniques
 Employer’s attitudes – “What’s in it for us?”
 Awareness of inclusive practices and disability awareness for all employees/team members – not just managers
 Not recognising it takes time to build effective working relationships with supported employment services and with clients
 Employers being unrealistic and asking for 30 people at once
 Not recognising that support needs to continue once in employment
 Preventing access/not allowing ‘in-work support’ on the premises
 Group interviews – work against some conditions/individuals, and does not allow them to demonstrate what they are capable of
 Reading and writing - not accessible for some clients
 Fashion outlet that only employs ‘pretty young girls’.

2. Good Employment Practices
 More casual – approaches to process, dress, etc.
 Employer prepared to ‘give someone a go’
 Being able to challenge the system
 Having the relationship with the employer in place
 Guarantee of an interview when basic criteria are met
 Work trials and working interviews
 Having and sharing videos of good practice
 Picture/video profiles in CVs – bringing the client to life for the employer
 Having conversations with employers – reaching an understanding with them
 Getting employers to award ceremonies and networking
 2-week work readiness course tailored to employer and role (Heathrow Academy)
 Work trials instead of applications as a route to apprenticeship opportunities
 Building a relationship with the employer rather than ‘recruit/employ then back-off’
 Being able to match individual clients to jobs
 Having someone (ideally an existing employee) with a disability/learning difficulty who is able to support training in the employer – raises awareness
 Having a job coach based in the workplace (like the Project Search models)
 Using success stories to show other employers and clients
 Employers who are open to change and willing to be flexible
 ‘Practice what you preach’
 A work placement moved onto paid employment using a different budget to create an 8hrs/week role
 Supported Internship opportunities offered instead of clients having to apply for a specific job role
 Reverse ‘Job Fair’ – Employers have to walk around and view the stands of clients and look at their evidence, CVs. videos, etc. This bypasses the typical recruitment process and puts the client in front of the employer and gets them talking to one another without the trappings of the formal HR processes. ‘Flipped recruitment!’
 Reading age for adverts and Job Descriptions appropriate to the level of job/expected minimum level of qualification
 Objective exercise – A software house sends those enquiring about working for them a technical exercise and based on their evaluation of the work submitted may ask to meet the candidate to discuss their approach to the technical/coding problem they were sent. No prior experience or qualifications required employment decisions are based purely on merit and aptitude.
 Contacting candidates who indicate they have a disability/difficulty to ask them how they can help with the recruitment process and making adjustments as necessary
 Support workers details on the application so they can be contacted if needed

3. Making Employment More Accessible – Practitioners
 Building relationships with employers
 Using exemplar companies and their examples of supported employment/internship to show other employers what is possible/what works
 ‘Practice what you preach’
 With job fairs, because of the difficulty many clients have with noise, crowds and sensory overload, get to the ‘breakfast meetings’ when employers are setting up and before the crowds arrive so they can talk to you and/or meet clients
 QR Codes that link to YouTube channels for client’s video CV. Employer can simply hover over the QR to get a real picture of the client there and then on their phone, The employer can then ‘meet’ them, see them in action, and hear why they want to work
 Train disability ‘Champions’ for the employer
 ‘Taking over the Council’ – clients spent a day shadowing senior leadership team. It did wonders for the clients seeing what goes on and having lots explained to them and it opened the leadership team’s eyes and they became far more interested and supportive of supported employment/internship
 Autism awareness training and disability awareness training for employers – teach them the ideas and the language so it prepares the ground for clients
 Attending employers’ team meetings
 Being clear that there is on-going support during placement and into employment
 Challenging the recruitment processes – including your own employer!
 Sharing best/effective practice with other support services and service providers – like today
 Having the basics in place to help clients and getting them to use spellcheck, read back their statements, have reliable IT etc.
 Being there when you say you will be
 Evaluating own practice (SEQF) and learning from what you find
 Training job coaches, TSI and the principles of supported employment

The feedback from delegates about the quality of the workshop itself from a range of organisations and practitioners across the country was excellent and the workshop was successful in bringing together professionals to share best practice. Feedback was collected by BASE via Survey Monkey.

On the final day Francesca Martinez, Comedian, actress and Author closed the conference. She shared her real-life experiences, which in the past may have been difficult to live through, but now, empowered by others and all credit to her, she can make light of these moments. She is not only a hilarious comedian but a truly inspirational woman.

"There are so many young, beautiful, able-bodied people who don't like themselves. Our cultures should focus on what we do have and encourage us to accept our bodies.My tip for happiness is to lower your expectations. I wake up in the morning and think, 'Thank god I didn't die!'
I've never met a normal person. Have you?" Francesca Martinez