Orla Coppinger explains the two year project which aims to give access to the labour market to those with an intellectual disability


The Brothers of Charity Services Galway have embarked on an exciting new ‘Let’s Get to Work’ supported employment initiative, under the Disability Activation Project launched by Pobal, which is a not-for-profit company which manages programmes on behalf of the Irish government and the EU. Pobal promotes social and economic inclusion, reconciliation and equality through the piloting of new initiatives.

The Department of Social Protection currently funds the network of EmployAbility Services which support people with disabilities to source and maintain paid employment. However, there is a set of criteria that people must meet to avail of the service, including that the job seeker must be job-ready, prepared to work a minimum of 8 hours per week, and capable of travelling to work independently.

The Brothers of Charity Services Galway (BOCG) identified a number of people with an intellectual disability with higher support needs who aspire to be part of the open labour market, but who were unable to meet the criteria set out by the Supported Employment Service. An application was submitted to Pobal for an intensive supported employment project, which would support the needs of these individuals. In 2012, the application was successful in securing funding as part of the Disability Activation Programme administered through Pobal, and funded by Ireland’s EU Structural Funds Programmes 2007-2013 and co-funded by the Irish government and European Social Fund.

The Project commenced in January 2013 when four outreach support workers took up their positions in Galway city, Connemara, Athenry, Gort and Ballinsloe.

The Let’s Get to Work project is a two-year project which aims to support participants with an intellectual disability to access work in the open labour market. The work can include volunteering, work experience, and training. Each outreach support worker supports ten participants to develop skills and opportunities to get and maintain work. Finding suitable work will support participants to realise their dreams and goals and thus improve their quality of life.

As part of the project the outreach support workers will help to identify the specific needs of the participants to access employment opportunities, develop individualised support plans, provide expertise, support and appropriate training to participants to assist them in accessing employment, develop sustainable support systems to enable them to maintain employment, and establish long-term partnerships with local employers, business people and community leaders.

Since the commencement of the Project in January, twelve participants have been placed in work experience and paid employment. Carina Lally became a participant on the project because she was keen to get back into employment to gain more independence and to develop her skills. Carina began working weekend shifts in Busker Brownes (a well-established bar and restaurant in Galway city) in June 2013. Carina has secured her position as a kitchen porter in the restaurant because the management recognised that she is a reliable, committed and motivated employee. Her workday begins at noon and her duties include cleaning cutlery, filling condiments, and preparing fruit and vegetables. Carina takes great pride in her work, taking her position and duties very seriously. Her employer and Carina both know that they have the support of the outreach support worker, should any issues arise. Prior to her taking up her job, Carina was involved in intensive training and preparation in order to become job-ready. Continued training to help Carina improve her work skills is organised by her outreach support worker, both in the workplace and, outside of her work hours, in the Jobs Club run by the support workers. Carina had had some past experience in the world of work, but her position in Busker Brownes has given her a tremendous boost. In addition to the training and experience Carina has received, she has also been given new opportunities to socialise and meet new people in her workplace, something which is of great importance to her.

Orla commenced in her role as an Outreach Support Worker with the Brothers of Charity Services Galway in January 2013. Prior to working with the Brothers of Charity, Orla began her career in Galmere Fresh Foods in the sales and marketing department. After 7 years working in that area she decided it was time for a career change. Orla commenced a BA Degree Course in Social Care in NUIG and during that period began working in frontline services with the Brothers of Charity Services Galway. After completing her studies, she was appointed to the position of Outreach Support Worker with the Lets Get to Work Project. Orla works with ten participants covering the Galway city and Connemara areas. Orla says working as an Outreach Support Worker is a new and exciting challenge for her, one which she is enjoying very much and she looks forward to developing the Project and helping participants to achieve their dreams and aspirations.


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