Partnership working has benefits beyond the utilisation of collaborative pooling of skills
The University of Wales, Newport sees itself as a community university and Equinex has been one of the ways in which they have taken this vision forward. The lasting legacy of the project will be to enable the University to establish the process of partnership working with key institutions within the community and to raise awareness of the issues and processes, both internally and externally.
The process of undertaking the work has been a learning experience for the staff within the institutions and has assisted these institutions to be inclusive to all exclusion-prone groups. Partnership working enabled the Centre for Community and Lifelong Learning to lead and coordinate the Employers' Project with Jobcentre Plus, Newport City Council, SEWREC, the National Autistic Society and other organisations in the region. The Institute of Digital Learning in partnership with the National Autistic Society Cymru produced a unique DVD resource ‘Being Me’ which introduces people to the Autism Spectrum. This may not have happened without the experience of partnership working. Two other project partners, Prime Cymru and SEWREC, also worked collaboratively with the University to produce the equality and diversity toolkits. Transnational partnership work presents challenges, but has been an empowering and rewarding learning experience. The partnerships that were developed through Equinex were very successful and may have potential for future work.
Employers benefit from information and practical support to actively engage with Europe’s untapped labour resource
If policy makers are aiming to encourage more people into work and away from benefits they need to support both the individual and the employer. Despite all efforts the indication is that there is still a lot of work to be done in this area to encourage and support employers. Employers stated that the benefits system itself can act as a disincentive to engaging in work for some individuals as what employers can afford to pay can sometimes be less than the benefits received. Employers need easy access to information. There is a need to raise awareness of the help and support that is available to employers to take on people with disabilities. Employers need to know how to make adjustments to work to enable people to remain in employment as disability can develop over life and increases with age. Current thinking suggests that people will be expected to work longer. As this occurs, it is likely that more people will experience disability in the workplace and it will become an increasingly important issue for employers. Disability is often still seen as a physical access issue. There is a need to raise awareness of hidden disability – disability does not only refer to wheelchair users.
Disadvantaged people benefit from individually tailored support to enable them to access the labour market
There is a need for additional one-to-one support for people with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, Asperger’s syndrome and sensory impairments, when going through transitions in order to assist them to access generic education, training and employment opportunities. The transitions officers working in Newport Social Services have moved people into generic services thus improving accessibility, increasing diversity and improving economic performance. By lessening the need for people to become reliant on day centres for their daily activity and instead move into education, training and/or employment opportunities there is the possibility of considerable saving to be made in local authority provision of such. Experience counts - the skills and experience that people over fifty have accumulated needs to be better valued and utilised by society.
Supporting people with visual impairment
A need has been identified for local service providers to be able to teach visually impaired people using the medium that suits them best. This could be speech recognition or magnification. Basic training of the methods and the available specialist software should be provided to a core number of front line teaching staff. Funding for this training is needed. There is also a need for ICT assessments for people with visual impairments. There is sometimes an over-emphasis on teaching visual awareness. This is obviously necessary but there is also the need to teach about the accessibility options and the use of available software.