Creating a Brighter Future for People Living with Disability

State Street and Rethink Ireland announce Awardees of €1.5 million Ability to Work Fund

August 11th, 2020:  State Street and Rethink Ireland have awarded €1.5 million from the Ability to Work Fund to four not-for-profit organisations who are helping develop the talents and skills of Ireland’s forgotten workforce, giving employment opportunities to those living with a disability.

The Fund, launched in November 2019 by State Street Foundation and Rethink Ireland is supported by the Department of Social Protection through its Dormant Accounts Fund. It aims to reach 500 people with disabilities across the country and empower 250 people to progress along pathways to employment. It recognises that having a job and enabling a person with a disability to become more financially and socially independent benefits the individual, their families, their employers and society at large.

The four Awardees are:

WALK and its subsidiary, Walkinstown Green Social Enterprises (WGSE)

  • Provides education, training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities, autism, and other barriers to employment through the operation of the Green Kitchen Café and the Green Garden. 
  • Through these programmes, WGSE provides a bridge to mainstream employment and has supported people into work with 51 different employers including the Houses of the Oireachtas, Compass at Google, Facebook, Accenture, Tallaght University Hospital and Costa Coffee. 

Employability Pathways

  • An innovative employability model, set up by the Dublin Simon Community, which caters for the most vulnerable individuals in society, namely people experiencing homelessness who are also living with a disability. 
  • The model focuses on individual pathways for their clients, ensuring that clients’ specific needs are met and their personal goals are achieved. Since 2016, they have helped 28 individuals complete a Level 5 QQI Health & Fitness course through their in-house gym.

Not So Different 

  • Promotes inclusion and equality of people who are neurodiverse through employment and education. NSD Creative Hub, Irelands’ first Neurodiversity simulated work place environment where individuals’ innate skills and talents acquired through NSD training are showcased to employers. Since 2019, 70 students received employment supports of which 54 engaged in professional accredited training and 35 in work place initiatives.
  • Promoting greater understanding of neurodiversity is central to the work of NSD. Deirdre Lynch, founder of NSD and person with a lived experience of neurodiversity has opened Ireland’s first neurodiversity school of thought to increase understanding of neurodiversity at home, in schools/colleges and in work. Training solutions are tailored to the needs of the employer, educator or individual. 

The UCC Disability Support Service Mentoring Programme

  • Matches students registered with the DSS to a professional mentor for an academic year and provides students with a meaningful opportunity to develop their employability skills through regular meetings with their mentor in the workplace. The project also supports employers to develop a better understanding of disability issues. 
  • For the 2019/2020 academic year, the programme ran 71 mentoring partnerships with 9 companies involved. 

Commenting on the announcement of today’s Awardees: Heather Humphreys, TD, Minister for Social Protection and Community and Rural Development had this to say: “I am delighted that my Department is supporting The Ability to Work Fund. It is an important initiative which will provide a pathway and supports into work for people living with a disability and I congratulate the Awardees, Rethink Ireland and State Street on today’s announcement.”

Tadhg Young, Ireland Country Head, State Street said: “Firstly I would like to congratulate today’s Awardees, it’s great to see the incredible work of each organisation in helping individuals with disabilities gain access to employment. As an employer, we value the qualities – experiences, interests and capabilities – that make our employees unique and we know that an inclusive culture and a diverse workforce makes us stronger and more successful. 

By empowering people with disabilities to gain employment, we are directly contributing to the overall health and well-being of our local communities by promoting equality of opportunities in education and sustainable employment for everyone in society.”  

Deirdre Mortell, CEO, Rethink Ireland said: “The numbers related to employment for people living with a disability in Ireland are still not where they need to be. With the support of this Fund, we aim to help today’s Awardees expand their business acumen, drive growth, deepen their impact across Ireland, and in turn, help improve the balance of inequality when it comes to employment. We really want to make meaningful change across the disability sector in Ireland and with the Awardees announced today, I believe we can achieve this. 

Each of these organisations are already providing education, upskilling, training and other services to people living with a disability and I’m looking forward to seeing what they go on to achieve with the support of this fund.”