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Engage to Change partners All Wales People First recently held two project evaluation events in Cardiff and Bangor. Members had the opportunity to give their views on interviews, universal credit, reasonable adjustments, barriers to employment, job coaching and much more.

Interactive workshops were set up as small groups rotated around the various stations throughout the day. Our Ambassadors ran a workshop on interviews at both events – Gerraint and Elsa in Cardiff, and Gerraint and Jonathan in Bangor. They described their own recruitment process as ambassadors, which provided examples of reasonable adjustments employers can make to ensure interviews are accessible. Groups rated their own experiences of interviews and discussed what kind of adjustments would help them personally. The most popular adjustment among our attendees was conducting a friendly interview – this could take place in a cafe or another informal space as opposed to a formal meeting room. Other popular choices were accessible forms, receiving the questions in advance, and taking someone for support.

The workshop facilitated by Tracey Drew focused on identifying barriers to work, with a view to looking at the support Engage to Change can offer to alleviate these barriers. Cardiff attendee Stacey Traylor from Vale People First felt she would worry about being accepted by staff. “I’d worry about bullying and not having the right support to be able to do the work well.” As Engage to Change job coaches are working on a person-centred basis, social support in the workplace can be provided as necessary in addition to practical support to complete the tasks needed to perform the role to a high standard.

Other barriers cited by participants included transport, their parents, their disability, and benefits. “I can’t understand big words,” said Stacey. “If people use jargon words to explain benefits, I’m not going to understand how it affects me.” Employment advisers can help to cut out this jargon and explain benefits in ways that are clearer, as well as conducting calculations that show whether each individual will be better off financially in work.

Benefits were a big topic in Andrea Meek’s workshop too. As a member of the National Centre for Mental Health’s research team, Andrea was looking for attendees’ feedback on matters relating to Universal Credit. Most participants had heard of Universal Credit, but felt they needed more information and support to understand it. Again, the use of jargon was a concern, as was the accessibility of the forms. Many attendees were aware of delays to payments and the negative attention that has been received by Universal Credit, causing them to worry. Young people participating in Engage to Change will have access to support in order to better understand Universal Credit and its implications.

The final workshop, run in Cardiff by ELITE Supported Employment and in a slightly different format by Agoriad Cyf in Bangor, provided a practical and interactive opportunity for attendees to experience a taste of job coaching and how it works. Attendees enjoyed completing the tasks and almost all agreed they had learned a lot about job coaching. The exercise demonstrated that the task in question was made simpler following systematic instruction.

Attendees also had the opportunity to express their hopes and fears for Engage to Change in a snowball fight! Everyone, including supporters and workshop leaders, was given three pieces of paper and asked to write down a hope and a fear. The papers were then rolled into balls and thrown, like snowballs. Many hoped that the project would make meaningful change to the lives of young people with a learning disability and/or autism, but there were also fears about what would happen when the funding comes to an end. This is why the project’s legacy must outlive the current lifespan of the project itself in the way that it helps to create attitudinal and cultural change amongst employers and influences policy.

Thank you to all attendees, workshop facilitators, and support staff for two very worthwhile days. All of your feedback will help us to improve the project further and support even more young people with a learning disability, a learning difficulty, and/or autism into employment.