Volunteering, Partnership and Work – Building Networks

Mary O’Halloran explains the many functions that Step SE provides to many employment for those with a disability

STEP Supported Employment team, Minister of State Joan Burton, Sean Gallagher & Teresa Mallon Chairperson IASE

STEP SE, within St John of God Community Services Ltd, is an employment, recruitment and volunteering service to assist men and women to secure and maintain jobs and volunteering roles.


STEP SE works with a number of partners aimed to support the men and women as ‘active citizens’. We work in the community, giving job seekers a direct route to employers to build skills, experience and bring about disability awareness. By working with employers who are positive towards people with a disability we can aim for a change in perspective together.
We don’t wait for jobs to come to us. We use the network; we are innovative, creative and work with employers and partners to support with capacity building.  People with disabilities are not just recipients, but can also be providers and contributors in their communities.

The STEP Supported Employment partnerships do this through:
■ Work experiences for 6 – 8 consecutive weeks
■ Initiatives with Southside Partnership and local employment services
■ Initiatives with larger corporate employers
■ The annual National Job Shadow Day
■ Employers already participating in the supported employment model
■ The men and women who are in employment and job seekers
■ Membership of the Irish Association of Supported Employment
■ Membership with Kanchi
■ Networking.

All our services to employers are free. They are supported by a professional job coach who works in harmony with their culture and environment.

Job Shadow – Dean MacKeever with Centra Glenageary Owner Ian Coughlin
Job Shadow – Dean MacKeever with Centra Glenageary Owner Ian Coughlin

People with a disability face many barriers! For example people with a mild intellectual disability face some unessential criteria for jobs they can do easily. Barriers include a very competitive job market, a lack of disability awareness and myths about employing people with a disability. Encouraging more employers to hire people with a disability can go a long way to promote a shift in awareness in society. This in turn supports people with a disability to hold jobs of their choice.

Some of our innovations:
■ STEP Care & Repair, in partnership with AgeAction and Southside Partnership, launched the first South Dublin Care & Repair service to AgeAction members, while providing skills development and work experience for people with a disability and people off the live register and responding to a real community need.
‘For over a year now Southside Partnership DLR has been working collaboratively with STEP Supported Employment and we feel that together we have achieved significant outcomes for each organisation as a result of this relationship. We believe that this relationship is a very good example of combining resources to achieve organisational aims. There is personal, organisational and individual gain in such collaboration.’ (Marian White, Southside Partnership)

■ The Employers Guide to Supported Employment – a simple, one stop shop guide for employers who wish to recruit a person with a disability. It covers from job analysis through recruitment, selection and performance management, reasonable accommodations and where to get help. This project is led by STEP Supported Employment in partnership with IrishJobs.ie, and with support from the IASE and other key disability service agencies and providers. The Guide is accessible online to allow ease of use. Readers can click in and out of the subject matter. (See www.irishjobs.ie or www.iase.ie or further information from the author Mary.ohalloran@sjog.ie.)

An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, Cian O’Connor & Yvette Ebbs
An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, Cian O’Connor & Yvette Ebbs

‘As Ireland’s number-one recruitment website, our clients come from all sectors and range from SMEs to Multinationals—the very people that Mary/STEP wanted to reach. That fact, combined with our expertise in website design and our commitment to making the workplace accessible for all meant we were happy to work with Mary to put together the guide and promote it to our clients.’ (MarieMarie Reilly, Editor of IrishJobs.ie)

■ Work Experiences – 6-8 weeks during which an employer provides a work experience to match a person’s job goals. The person practices skills, learns new ones and builds their interpersonal communication skills and confidence = capacity building!  All of this is supported by a job coach.

‘Here at Pinocchio Restaurant & Wine Bar in Ranelagh, we are really happy about our collaboration with STEP. It’s been a few years now since Cian O’Connor started working with us and thanks to all the support Yvette Ebbs, his job coach from STEP, gave us we have reached important goals: Cian is now one of the best members of our staff, is very well integrated, I would say he is loved by his workmates and his cappuccino is the best in town! We would suggest to everybody to follow our experience.’ ‘Cian gave us a great contribution to reach our best and at the same time we tried to train him into a profession he likes. It was an ambitious and challenging project from the very beginning that was made possible thanks to the valuable and constant support of STEP, together with the team of Pinocchio.’ (Marco Giannantonio and Maurizio Mastrangelo, Owners, Pinocchio Restaurant/Flavour of Italy Grop Ltd www.flavourofitaly.net)

‘I`ve found the programme hugely beneficial to myself, staff and customers. Since Dean started working with us he has really progressed to the level of being more than capable of working on his own initiative and able to take and carry out instructions like all members of our staff, which we all find very rewarding and he has really become a central part of our team. The support we received at the start and on-going from Shirley has been great and very helpful to us. I would have no hesitation in recommending other employers in taking part in this programme, so much so I recommended it to my brother in his stores and he has taken part in one of his stores to great benefit.’ (Ian Coughlan, owner, Centra, Glenageary)

■ Job Shadow – an annual event held in April.  Job Shadow Day is a national project bringing people with disabilities and local employers together for one day to promote equal employment opportunities and highlight the valuable contribution people with disabilities can, and do, make at work. Participants explore the world of work by ‘shadowing’ someone in the workplace as they go about their normal working routine. It brings about awareness for employers in the benefits of employing a person with a disability.

Anna Ruth & Mary O Halloran at the EUSE 2013 Conference
Anna Ruth & Mary O Halloran at the EUSE 2013 Conference

‘I have had the privilege of participating in the IASE’s National Job Shadow Day for the past three years with STEP Supported Employment when I worked with Austin in 2011, James in 2012 and with Aidan this year. The experience has emphasised for me the excellent work of the IASE and STEP, whose core belief is that people with disabilities including those with significant disabilities should have equal opportunity to have a job. I share that belief and would encourage employers with a suitable vacancy to hire a person with a disability, which will enable that person to participate more fully in the labour market and in society.’ (Joan Burton, TD, Minister for Social Protection)

Mary grew up in Kildare and spent 18 years working overseas in London, America and New Zealand. In New Zealand Mary worked for the Accident, Compensation & Rehabilitation Organisation (ACC) as Workforce Planning & Recruitment Manager. Mary’s experience and skill is in recruitment and selection, sales & marketing, client relationship management and operations management. Mary studied contract and commercial law, job analysis, job design, workforce planning, behavioural interviewing and recruitment marketing.  Prior to working in ACC, she worked for one of the largest international recruitment companies. In the mid-1980s Mary ran her own recruitment agency which was tailored for a job market in recession. Mary has worked with STEP Supported Employment for five years.