SOLIHULL Council has taken a ‘difficult decision’ to disband a service which helps young disabled people into employment.
STEPS or Support Towards Employment, Progression And Satisfaction supports nearly 250 people into paid jobs or volunteering roles.
The service had an admirable track record with around 70 of their clients in paid employment with the rest in volunteering roles.
STEPS won Care Team of the Year at last year’s Solihull Together Awards which is staged by the council among other providers.
The team supported adults aged 18 and upwards, in a variety of full-time or part-time roles.
They also advocated greater emphasis on creating entry-level jobs and assisted users with one to one support with job finding and applications.
Councillor Karen Grinsell, cabinet member for adult social care and health, said: “It was a difficult decision to disband the STEPS service, but it provides an opportunity to look at new ways of supporting people with disabilities, which will have more impact and be better value.
“For those with more complex needs, employment support may be delivered through more tailored support plans.
“The council’s day services could also be developed to incorporate this service.
“We will be exploring opportunities to find organisations in the voluntary sector which can support this work.
“Meanwhile officers from across the council will develop a more coordinated approach that recognises an individual’s needs.
“Letters are being sent to all STEPs users and carers explaining the situation.
“The STEPS service (eight people) will be offered re-deployment opportunities within the council over the coming year as the service changes to reflect this new approach.”
Sometimes the service would step in when someone is at risk of losing their job.
They championed different approaches to be fostered by local employers and challenged the ‘one size fits all’ approach.
Janet Down MBE, chief executive for Solihull Life Opportunities – a disability support provider in the borough – said: “If the council follows through with the commitment to explore options for another service, this shows clear concern for disabled people in the borough.
“But the proof will be in the pudding and given how stretched the council are with resources, delivery could be a concern.
“Although I have no doubt the council is committed to people with disabilities, we must remember employment figures for people with disabilities are not improving.
“I am disappointed the council didn’t re-tender the service into the voluntary sector but this is an unfortunate symptom of government cuts.”