NIUSE Policy Group publishes paper on the future funding for disability employment services


The Northern Ireland Union of Supported Employment recently published a briefing paper on future funding for disability employment services.

As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, the UK Government has committed to keep in place current European Social Fund (ESF) arrangements until they expire in 2022 and create a ‘successor’ fund – the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF).

With the Northern Ireland Assembly in suspension and the UK’s departure from the EU on 31 October 2019 approaching, the NIUSE Policy Group has published a briefing paper outlining its concerns and potential opportunities regarding the UKSPF. The paper also looks at why employment matters and the barriers people with a disability face accessing and staying in employment.

The paper acknowledges the substantial benefit the European Social Fund has made to the lives of people with a disability in Northern Ireland and this is illustrated in the paper through case studies.

The paper calls for key actions for the UK Government to ensure that people with disabilities in Northern Ireland are represented and considered in the development of any future funding programmes. The actions include:

  • To clarify future funding arrangements for disability employment projects currently delivered through ESF, including the role of the UKSPF or alternative funding provision
  • To ensure that new funding at least matches the current total ESF resources, and that this is future proofed for inflation increases
  • To ensure that powers to allocate funding through the UKSPF are transferred across regions in order to maintain Northern Ireland’s devolved status and responsibility for economic development
  • To consult locally on the priorities to be supported in Northern Ireland through the UKSPF and/or alternative funding provision – this should include consultation with people who have a disability

Norman Sterritt, NIUSE Chairperson said: “The European Social Fund programme is the main source of funding in Northern Ireland for vocational training and employment services for people with disabilities. We need to ensure that Northern Ireland is represented at the discussion, design and planning stages for the new funding programme to provide future programmes to support disabled people to access and stay in employment.”

The briefing paper has been produced by Mary Anne Webb, Mencap, in conjunction with the Policy Group members. For further information, contact NIUSE on [email protected]. You can also follow NIUSE on Twitter at @niuse_tweets.

What is the Northern Ireland Union of Supported Employment?

The Northern Ireland Union of Supported Employment is an umbrella organisation representing individuals and organisations promoting employment opportunities for people with disabilities and people from disadvantaged situations accessing and staying in employment using the Supported Employment model.

The NIUSE Policy Group advocates for and collectively provides employment support to almost 4,000 people with a disability in Northern Ireland.  This includes people with learning, physical, mental ill health, sensory, hidden disabilities and autism.  Members of the Policy Group includes Action Mental Health, Access Centre NI, AEL, Action on Hearing Loss, Appleby Trust, Cedar Foundation, Can,  Clanrye Group, Derry Youth and Community Workshop, Disability Action, Mencap, NOW Group, Richardville, RNIB and Stepping Stones.

The opinions, views or comments in this article do not necessarily reflect any views or policies of NICVA.

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