The project leads for the Getting a Life project in Kent were Sheelagh Smith and Dee Watson. For more information about transition for young people with learning disabilities in Kent after March 2011, please contact Dee Watson firstname.lastname@example.org
Nikki is 17 years old and lives in Kent. He has started doing a variety of work experience placements and is really happy to be working. He wants to try a variety of options where he can get busy and use his hands, as he enjoys practical work, and wants to get a paid job in the future like everyone else.
His family are really pleased and proud of Nikki’s ambitions for the future, and are happy that people are finally helping Nikki’s get the opportunities he wants. He has started working two days a week at a local garden centre, supported by a job coach, and one day a week with his father. Everyone hopes that Nikki will be in a part time paid job soon, with a job coach from Kent Supported Employment working alongside him. When Nikki turns 18, he will get an individual budget funded from adult social services.
A year ago, the future didn’t look so good. Nikki’s sensory and learning disabilities and challenging behaviour meant that an ordinary classroom wasn’t a good learning environment for him. His family could see that when he left school, going to a large further education college would be even more unsuitable. Nikki’s family looked at the options available but couldn’t see a suitable way forward for him.. A team of professionals working with Nikki and his family and trying to support him couldn’t find an answer either.
The system in Kent wasn’t working for Nikki. People over the age of 18 could get job coaches and support to help them get a job through Kent Supported Employment, but Nikki was too young to qualify for this support. Young people can take up learning opportunities through modern apprenticeships or alternative accreditation from the age of 16 but these weren’t open to Nikki because he didn’t have the right qualifications.
In 2008, Nikki was put forward to join the Getting a Life project. The team of professionals already working with Nikki were joined by other agencies including Nikki’s school, local social services, Connexions, challenging behaviour team, children’s disability team and the local area education office. They worked together for six months trying to find an alternative path for him. Through a local Getting a Life meeting, Nikki’s story was heard at a county level, and plans were made to create an individual budget from existing funding sources. Rather than finding a way to access existing provision, the group worked together to design something brand new.
By thinking creatively and being flexible with the funding already available, the cross-agency team identified a minimum of £8,000 for Nikki to use in the next calendar year. This money comes from a direct payment from social services (following an assessment of Nikki’s weekday leisure needs), and from the funding given to his school to meet his statement of SEN.
By listening to Nikki’s needs and aspirations for the future, and working together with him and his family, the Getting a Life team in Kent were able to think creatively and change local systems so that they work for Nikki and will help him to realise his ambition of having a real job.
The success of Nikki’s story and the
flexibility created within the system
has led to interest other special schools
in Kent, and one school is now looking
into pursuing the same model with another
young person who wants to be in work rather
than at school.
The Getting a Life employment sub-group is made up of representatives from Kent adult social care services, children’s services, Jobcentre Plus, Connexions, Thanet College, St Nicholas School, Valence School, the Jobs Action Group, and Skillnet Group CIC. The Getting a Life employment sub-group are focusing on making sure the following things happen:
1. All young people think about work from year 9 and start to make plans about getting a job
A four-day person-centred transition reviews course was held for schools. This was part of the Getting a Life development programme. Many people from schools were worried about the idea that young people with severe learning disabilities and their families should be expected to think about employment as part of their transition planning. Even though many people were worried, there was good feedback about the course and people thought it helped them. For that reason, a second course was organised by KCC as part of the training for our multi-agency transition protocols group. There was a lot of support from children’s services, including the service for children with additional educational needs. In addition, eight special schools are taking part. The course is half way through and we are happy with how it is going. People from schools on the course are more positive about person-centred reviews and they are starting to think about employment. If more people from schools want this course, it will be organised again. Children’s services are looking at a half-day taster to get people from schools interested.
The Children’s, Families and Education directorate have set up a meeting for all education providers for learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities to look at employment. This group is thinking about what it needs to do to make sure that more people get and keep jobs. It is thinking about how Foundation Learning can be used to help with peoples’ plans to get a job. It is thinking about how all people can have meaningful work experience. The work with the group is very hard because not everyone believes that everyone can get and keep a job.
The Jobs Action Group, led by Skillnet Group, is developing a toolkit to help us make sure that everyone does believe that everyone can work. The toolkit will be a web-based tool and is being funded through the Social Care Reform Grant. This includes a DVD about people who have jobs, including people with complex needs. The DVD is now in production, and people with learning disabilities are employed to help make it. We are looking at ways of how people with learning disabilities can receive payment to go into schools to talk about how everyone can work. We hope that this will help make sure that everyone has a plan about jobs and that education providers support their plan.
Skillnet Group is running a schools’ project and people with learning disabilities are going into schools to talk about choices and what people can do and achieve, including living independently and working. Again, people with learning disabilities are being paid to do this work.
The employment sub-group is thinking together about how we can make sure that everyone has good work experience at year 10. We think that the training is helping to make this happen. We have some ideas that we will discuss with the Children, Families and Education directorate.
The employment sub-group found out about a form called the S139A or Moving on Plan that needs to be done when young people leave school. Jobcentre Plus, colleges, and Adult Social Care Services agreed that they would like to find a way that these are plans that really help people get jobs and that they can know what is in these plans to help them give better support to young people. We want to find a way that this can happen and the right questions are asked on the S139A. We found out that it was okay to make changes to the form. Connexions made some changes to the form. We checked these changes with lots of people but there were not many comments. We are not sure if these changes will make a difference. We are thinking about getting some people together who have had a S139A to see if these changes will make things better. We will also ask them what can be done to make a Moving on Plan or the S139A their person-centred plan to get a job.
We are trying to do as much as we can to make sure that all young people think about work from year 9 and get a job. We are finding it hard to make sure that this happens.
2. All young people get good benefits advice and good support to carry out their plan to get and keep a job
We know that many people go into further education when leaving school. We are therefore looking at ways that we can make sure that more people leave further education and get jobs. Thanet College found funding from the Kent Learning and Skills Council (both Kent LSC and South East LSC) to help find a way of doing this. A partnership has been established between the further education colleges and supported employment providers to make sure that more people get jobs. In the first year, seven people got jobs, with one of these jobs more than 16 hours per week. During the first year, further education and supported employment learned a lot from each other, and further education is now doing some of the things that supported employment did at the beginning of the project. The funding we have can now been used to make sure that this happens in more colleges in Kent. We need to find a way of enabling this work to continue, particularly the partnership between further education and supported employment. We also need to find a way of making sure that all people with learning disabilities can get this support.
This work has helped us to establish
a strong partnership, led by employers,
to deliver Project Search, and we have
been successful in becoming one of the
national demonstration sites. The employers
will be the East Kent Hospitals University
Foundation Trust and Vista Leisure. The
further education provider will be Thanet
College who will use Foundation Learning
to fund a tutor and Kent Supported Employment
will provide supported employment. In
addition, the people involved will need
to be eligible for Kent adult social care
services, as they will need to use their
individual budgets. It has been agreed
with the Children’s, Families and Education
directorate that Project Search will be
one of the Foundation Learning pilots.
Young people and their family carers have told us that they need better information to find out how to get on the right benefits and get good support to get and keep a job. Jobcentre Plus, Kent Adult Social Services and Connexions are working with people from with learning disabilities to find a way of giving them this information in a way that is easy for them to understand. Skillnet Group are helping us and making sure that people with learning disabilities are paid for this work. It is very complicated but the support from all the agencies is helping. The group working on making the information easy to understand think that we should make this into a Snakes and Ladder game! It has been agreed that this work will be included in the transition protocols when they are up-dated in March 2010.
Kent adult social care services and Kent Supported Employment are working to find employers who understand the business case for employing people with learning disabilities. East Kent Hospital University Foundation Trust, Vista Leisure and Hillview School have all agreed to employ people with learning disabilities. We are also working with Kent Police, Kent County Council, AXA PPP Healthcare, Gravesham Borough Council and Tunbridge Wells Borough Council to help them understand how to and agree to employ people with learning disabilities. The Jobs Action Group is going to help with finding more employers. They are going to use their toolkit with employers to help them understand the business case.
Kent adult social care services funds Kent Supported Employment, MCCH Tuck by Truck, and Shaw Trust to support people into employment. We want to make sure that more people get and keep jobs from these services. We have agreed a new service specification with the providers to make sure that we are getting the most from this funding. We have also agreed a new way of keeping track of what they are doing to make sure that more young people get and keep jobs.
Kent adult social care services and the strategic health authority are working with the Kent and Medway Social Enterprise Network to see how the social enterprises in Kent can help with us some of the things we are finding hard with personalisation. We have found out that some social enterprises in Kent, like Skillnet Group are helping us to make sure that more people with learning disabilities get and keep jobs without getting funding to do this. We are working to find a way that this can be better supported and recognised.
3. Funding from different agencies is used together to make sure that there are good supported employment services
This work has been very difficult because all the funding agencies have different rules about how their funding works. We know that money from the Department of Work and Pensions goes to providers who work in Kent, Surrey and Sussex. We are working with people in local authorities in Surrey and Sussex to make sure that the Department and Work and Pensions providers can work with people with learning disabilities. We tried to bid for funding for the Work Choice programme as a Special Purpose Vehicle (the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Group) to be the Prime Contractor, but we were unsuccessful. We are talking to the Prime Contractors who were invited to tender to see if we can get things working together to make sure that people with learning disabilities get good support to find and keep jobs.
As explained earlier, we are trying to find a way for further education and supported employment to work together. This will mean that they have to find a way to share funding.
We have established a corporate crosscutting board, the Employability Group, to make sure that people furthest away from the labour market get support from all parts of KCC to get and keep jobs. All the directorates are represented on this board at a senior level. We have decided to make a plan for four groups of people (the PSA16 group), those the government says are at greatest risk of not being included, and this includes people with moderate and severe learning disabilities. We are now writing this plan, which will be written by the end of the year. The plan will look at what we can do as a provider of services and as an employer, what we can do through buying goods and services, and what we can do as a community leader.
4. People can use their personal budgets to get good support into employment
Kent is putting in place “self directed support” and all new people to Kent adult social care services have the choice of a personal budget from October 2009. We want people to use their personal budget to get and keep a job. It is a very big change in how we provide services in Kent and we are working hard to make sure that this makes a difference to all people who use Kent adult social care services. We know that we need to make sure that there are good supported employment services and job coaches where people can use their personal budgets. We know that we need to understand how we can change from block contracting.
We don’t have a lot of choice of good supported employment providers in Kent. We need to find a way to make sure that there are more good quality providers in Kent.
We have made changes to the service agreements for our three supported employment providers, Kent Supported Employment, MCCH Tuck by Truck and Shaw Trust to make sure that they help more people with learning disabilities get and keep jobs. Developing or customising jobs is now part of the service agreements. There are now targets for the providers for the numbers of sustained jobs they find for people with learning disabilities. New arrangements are in place to make sure that providers do what it says in the agreements. We want to use these agreements to find a way to help with people using their personal budgets to get good support into employment.
We know that we have a lot of work to do to get this to happen.
5. All people are supported in getting jobs, including people with complex needs
Kent adult social care services has identified funding from the Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnership in the South East to help us find a way of making sure that people with complex needs can get and keep a job with support from Kent Supported Employment. The project started at the beginning of October 2009. We are organising lots of training for the staff in Kent Supported Employment, which includes how to work with employers to customise or develop jobs, and Systematic Instruction. We are working to find people with complex needs who want to work from Getting a Life, the Good Day Programme and the campus re-provision work. Tizard Centre is working with us to help us understand the cost savings so that we can move funding from day services to supported employment (like Steve Beyer’s study about North Lanarkshire). The Tizard Centre is also going to help us understand the difference in makes to peoples’ lives.
6. All agencies, people with learning disabilities and family carers are working together to find a way to make sure more people get jobs
We are working hard to make sure that all agencies, people with learning disabilities and family carers are working together to find a way to make sure more people get jobs.
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