JUST BEFORE Christmas we took a look at some of the award categories for the 2018 Observer-supported Solihull Together Awards and the stories behind the 2017 winners.
Now as the deadline for nominations looms we are encouraging readers to nominate the Care Team of the Year Award.
This category recognises a team that has made an outstanding contribution to caring for adults in Solihull.
The award is open to teams working in the public or private sector, professional and voluntary groups and includes teams which provide care at home, in a care home or other setting.
The 2017 Care Team of the Year Award was won by Support Towards Employment Progress and Satisfaction (STEPS) from Solihull Council.
The STEPS team, led by assistant manager, Jayne Lea, helps adults with learning disabilities to find work, whether that’s full-time or part-time, paid or voluntary in a variety of roles.
Jayne said: “It’s not just the traditional ‘working with animals and children’ roles.
“The guys we support work in shops, on farms (with alpacas), in offices, hospitality and even at the cemetery. Our goal for people is independence but we can and do step back in if we need to.
“Having a job, even for a few hours a week, takes you out of the house, helps to develop independence and confidence and brings you into contact with other people. That can be priceless, not just for the individual but for their family too.”
Claire, one of the team’s support workers, explains that the biggest barrier to someone getting employment is having a learning disability.
“The first hurdle is the recruitment process itself with employers often asking for online applications and psychometric testing,” she said. “If our guys can’t get past that they can’t even get a foot in the door.
“The recruitment process shouldn’t put them at a disadvantage but for someone with social difficulties it can be terrifying to go through. It’s so frustrating because you know they’d be fantastic at the job, given the chance.”
The STEPS team don’t spend all their time helping people to get jobs, although that’s a big part of their role, with the weekly job club providing one-to-one support for job finding and applications.
Sometimes they are asked to step in when someone is at risk of losing their job.
Often it’s about suggesting different approaches to local employers and challenging the ‘one size fits all’ approach.
Angie, one of the team’s co-ordinators, explained how important it is to manage people’s expectations about employing someone with learning disabilities.
She said: “We help employers to think differently about what people can do and perhaps adapting the job description if there are particular tasks getting in the way. Fear of the unknown is also a big issue so we help employers to understand more about learning disabilities.”
STEPS is determined to break down barriers and get people with learning disabilities included in the workforce.
“If every employer in Solihull committed to employing someone with a learning disability,” Jayne said.
“It would have a huge impact. It doesn’t have to be a full-time job. Just a few hours a week could make a big difference to someone.”
To find out more about the STEPS team, visit Solihull MyLife at https://solihull.mylifeportal.co.uk
For more information about all the award categories and to submit an online nomination, visit www.solihull together.co.uk/awards
You can also find out more by following the Awards on Twitter @ST4BL. The closing date for nominations is midday on Monday January 29.