About Supported Employment

About Supported Employment

Supported Employment has been successfully used for decades as a model for supporting people with significant disabilities to secure and retain paid employment. The model uses a partnership strategy to enable people with disabilities to achieve sustainable long-term employment and businesses to employ valuable workers. Increasingly, supported employment techniques are being used to support other disadvantaged groups such as young people leaving care, ex-offenders and people recovering from drug and alcohol misuse.

BASE members regard employers as key customers of their services. There is a strong business case for employing a diverse workforce as many companies have discovered. We believe that co-workers have much to gain by supporting the participant in their development - it is a very rewarding experience to contribute towards change in another person.

Employment terms and conditions for people with disabilities should be the same as for everyone else including pay at the contracted going rate, equal employee benefits, safe working conditions and opportunities for career advancement.

We identify the most 'natural' ways in which we can support people with disabilities in employment, working in partnership with employers and all concerned. More intensive and personalised approaches such as Training in Systematic Instruction are available if needed.

Supported Employment is often described as Individual Placement and Support (IPS) when it is used to support people with long term mental health needs. In IPS there is an additional emphasis on the co-location of employment and clinical staff.

Supported Employment is underpinned by a set of core values which are included in the National Occupational Standards for Supported Employment.


The Model

The supported employment modelThis 5-stage model has at its heart the notion that anyone can be employed if they want paid employment and sufficient support is provided. The model is a flexible and continuous process, designed to meet all anticipated needs. The EUSE Supported Employment Toolkit although aimed at professionals, provides background information on the supported employment model and includes useful "how to" guides.  The model is equally applicable to supporting job retention.

Underpinning values of Supported Employment

For a supported employment practitioner to practice competently he or she must apply skills and knowledge that is informed by a set of underpinning values. Supported employment practitioners are expected to be aware of and to apply a value-based and ethical approach in their practice. 

1. People with disabilities and/or disadvantages can make a positive contribution in the workplace.

2. People with disabilities / disadvantage should have access to a real job where 

  • wages are paid at the going rate for the job, 
  • the employee enjoys the same terms and conditions as all other employees; 
  • the job helps the person to meet their life goals and aspirations; 
  • the role is valued by managers and colleagues; 
  • the job has similar hours and times at work as other employees, with safe working conditions. 

3. Practitioners uphold the "zero rejection" philosophy of supported employment so that, with the right job and the right support, everyone who wants to work, can work.

4. Supported employment does not adhere to a work readiness model and a 'place, train and maintain' approach is implemented. 

5. Job search should happen at the earliest opportunity. 

6. People are encouraged to exercise choice and control in achieving their career aspirations. Support is individualised and all options assume successful employability.

7. There is genuine partnership between the person, their family carers, employers, community supports and the provider of supported employment.

8. People are supported to be full and active members of their workforces and wider communities, both socially and economically.

9. Support services recognise the importance of the employer as a customer of supported employment in their own right with requirements that need to be satisfied. 

10. Supported employment draws on Social Role Valorisation (SRV) in recognising that employment is a valued social role and becoming employed can help reverse societal devaluation, with wider positive consequences for the person. 

11. Supported employment draws on the social model of disability recognising that disability is the product of the physical, organisational and attitudinal barriers present within society. The removal of discrimination requires a change of approach and thinking in the way in which society is organised, in this case removing barriers to employment. 

12. Supported employment should encourage the career development of individuals by promoting training opportunities and seeking options for increased responsibility. 

National Occupational Standards for Supported Employment 

EUSE Supported Employment Toolkit