2019 Award Winners

2019 Award Winners

These awards recognise and celebrate outstanding practice in the field of supported employment in the UK. Their focus is on promoting the remarkable work that goes on across the country to help people with disabilities, and other disadvantages, get the support they want to achieve their work aspirations and retain paid employment. Here are our winners for 2019. We offer our thanks and congratulations to them all.

Team of the Year

Sponsored by Brain in Hand


Discovery is a new social enterprise which has been delivering supported employment services across the whole of Somerset for two years. A subsidiary of the Dimensions Group, the service has supported 95 people into paid work; over half of them into full-time positions with a retention rate of over 80%. The service has very high satisfaction ratings amongst customers, employers and families. 

Discovery have recognised the need to invest in training its staff. All of the team have undertaken TSI training and are working towards achieving the Level 3 Certificate for Supported Employment Practitioners. This training has not only upskilled staff, but also created natural support mechanisms in the team, transferring knowledge and increasing enthusiasm to offer choice and control to the people they support. Discovery has created a Quality Team of six people, employed as Consultants, to review their services and take part in the recruitment, selection and induction of new staff. 

As part of the transformation of Day Service, Discovery has created the ‘Stepping Stones’ programme: an opportunity for those seeking work to gain confidence and self-esteem and an understanding of what employment can look like. Discovery has also built relationships with local colleges and Sixth Forms to provide an early introduction to Supported Employment and to create access to their service, Project Search and specialist employment provisions such as EDF Hinkley Point. Alongside paid employment, they have set up work-taster trials with EU Conservation, Not Waste, Geo-bags and Urban Farm Project.


Highly commended: Enable

Enable, a part of Shropshire County Council, is an income generating team who make a huge difference to their clients lives by supporting them to maximise their independence. They were an early provider of IPS services and were soon recognised as a Centre of Excellence. They have provided consistently high-quality results on government employment programmes, such as Work Choice, Work and Health programme and Specialist Employment Programme (SES).

Enable delivers a wide range of services, generating £1.7 million income in the financial year 2018-19, and these include supported internships, travel training and employment support for people with learning disabilities in Wolverhampton.



Highly commended: Blackpool DFN Project Search

For the last 5 years DFN Project Search in Blackpool have supported 52 Interns on a Supported Internship programme that includes Skills for Employment, English and Maths and on the job training. Overall, 82.5% who completed the programme have obtained paid work and 67.5% of these have sustained this employment.

Job outcomes have ranged from the more traditional roles to one young man backing up all the data for the Council. The last OFSTED inspection commented that "Learners who have high needs benefit from high-quality internships. These learners gain new skills, knowledge and self-confidence and most progress into valuable and paid employment."

The programme, managed by Blackpool Council, are now in their 6th year and another 11 Interns have been given the opportunity to benefit from this dedicated and committed programme and will be given the best chance they could ever wish for in obtaining employment.


Practitioner of the Year

Lucie Dix (EADS, Northamptonshire County Council)


Since joining EADS in 2013, Lucie has achieved a strong track record, supporting 92 people into paid employment, 27 in the past 12 months, and directly supporting 23 key local employers over the past year. Lucie is a leader within her geographical team, understanding the importance of operating as a team and the strengths / contributions each of them can make. She empowers colleagues to be the best they can be and sets an incredibly high standard for both herself and those who work alongside her.

Lucie tackles everything thrown at her with enthusiasm, positivity and creativity. A true ambassador for EADS and our supported employment model of delivery, Lucie takes problem solving in her stride and empowers the clients she supports to break down the barriers that hold them back from achieving their true potential. Lucie constantly raises aspirations, creatively problem solves, actively listens and never shys from complex and difficult conversations. She sees the very best in every person she supports and has exceptional ability to engage and form trusted and honest professional relationships. 

Clients and employers are full of praise for her support:

"The in-work support from Lucie has been invaluable and, for the first time in years, I feel myself returning to the approachable, confident worker that I used to be."

"As well as her professionalism in helping me to prepare job applications and huide me through all aspects of job searching, Lucie has such a pleasant and kind personality and positive attitude which has been such a help to me." 


Highly commended: Fran Austin (DSA WorkFit)

Fran joined the Down's Syndrome Association in September 2017 and is an Employment Development Officer for the WorkFit supported employment programme. She covers the North West of England and supports jobseekers with Down’s syndrome, their families and employers in the area. She has successfully expanded an existing relationship with Timpson to create five additional positions within the company for her candidates. She has also formed a number of new partnerships with XPO, New World Trading Company and the Mill Exchange. 

She has developed 42 employment opportunities for her candidates (over 60% of which have been permanent paid jobs) which demonstrates her commitment to sourcing long-term, sustainable opportunities for her candidates.  She has also delivered 48 WorkFit Employer training sessions to 407 employees. Fran embodies the person-centred and inclusive values, which guide the profession, and she has consistently gone the extra mile in her work to help people with Down’s syndrome gain and retain employment. 


Award for Best Employer Practice

Sponsored by DFN Foundation

XPO Logistics

Nominated by WorkFit, XPO have employed seven candidates with Down’s syndrome to date through the DSA’s WorkFit programme, all of them in permanent, paid roles.  The company is now taking steps to expand the partnership nationwide.  

XPO have demonstrated significant commitment to supporting people with learning disabilities to gain employment, retain their work and develop their careers. At all of the sites, staff at all levels have been involved in putting reasonable adjustments in place to help their colleagues who have Down’s syndrome. Each of the candidates has at least two in-work buddies within their team and these colleagues work closely with the candidates to support them to feel fully integrated. These buddies are complemented by a designated trainer who delivers the training at a pace that suits the learning profile of their new colleagues. XPO have also made sure that all the employees have a structured work routine, shorter shift lengths and have created picture workbooks to help them learn their roles. At all stages, teams at XPO have been open to ideas, often providing innovative ideas for reasonable adjustments.

They have championed the recruitment of people with Down's syndrome, appearing in a promotional video for WorkFit. They have also spoken about their experiences at regional WorkFit conferences. Both of these actions have inspired more people with Down’s syndrome to consider paid work. 

Aaron Walker, an XPO employee says, “I love my new job; I would like to become a Health & Safety trainer at XPO Logistics. All the staff has been very nice and I have learnt how to say good morning in lots of different languages. I like it when my boss Neil comes to see me working. I like to work hard and keep focused. I feel very proud”

Neil Blackledge, Site Manager, XPO Logistics (Manchester) told us “Aaron is a great guy with a superb personality and we could not have been connected with anyone as enthusiastic and joyful. I really do encourage all employers to get involved, a fantastic and rewarding programme that really does change people’s lives. At our Manchester site we have Aaron, Luanne, Jack and Grace all part of the @XPOLogistics_Eu team”.


Highly commended: Legoland Windsor

Over 10 years, Legoland has worked with Ways into Work to recruit disabled people. They have had an amazing impact for many clients through the opportunities they have provided, the support and understanding they have given and by embracing jobseekers as a valuable part of the Legoland family. They have developed a bespoke recruitment and induction process, incorporating vocational profiling; job matching and paid work trials as an alternative to formal interviews.

They now employ over 30 clients annually with many returning for each season. In recent years there have been promotions and pay rises, for example clients working on rides and attractions and in ground operations, have become trainers in their respective departments. For others, this has been a springboard to their career with numerous clients subsequently moving into their dream jobs in sectors such as retail, office work, facilities and catering.


David Grainger Award

Simon Solecki (Enham Trust)

Simon joined Enham Trust originally as part of their Skills2Achieve programme for young people who are classed as NEET. At that point in his life, Simon was experiencing debilitating mental illness and had been diagnosed with Asperger’s. He hid in his hoodie and struggled to communicate. The Skills2Achieve programme helped Simon learn to manage his disabilities and go on to achieve his maths and English qualifications which allowed him then to take up a supported position as a classroom assistant. This role allowed Simon to flourish further, supporting and offering advice and guidance to other young people, who, like himself, were struggling in mainstream education.

Committed to his own personal development, Simon enrolled for and completed his PTLLS qualification, introducing him to teaching, which he decided, was a career he wanted to pursue so that he could continue to support other young people, like himself, who he felt, just needed a second chance and a supportive environment. One year on and Simon has just secured an unsupported position with Enham as a Trainee Tutor and will begin his training this month. His aim is to qualify as a tutor so that he can continue to inspire and support young people with learning difficulties and disabilities to fulfil their potential.

Simon has always played a very active part in the team, taking on additional duties to extend his knowledge and experience & contributing to a very successful Ofsted inspection of the provision and rising success rates year on year . He also acts as Enham's ‘social secretary’ and has organised team activities and celebrations of success.

Challenging his own issues around communication and pushing himself to integrate and become a valued member of the team, have transformed Simon from a young man who would not look or speak to anyone directly into a proud and articulate young man, who regularly steps outside his comfort zone, to speak of his journey at Disability Confident Events.


Highly commended: Martin Woodward (Surrey Choices)

Martin is the team administrator at Surrey Choices for a team of around 25 peripatetic, unpredictable, busy, demanding and often disorganised employment support specialists!  Martin has played a key role, and been an exemplary employee, for nearly 9 years and is now taking on new responsibilities for development of the in-house IT system for the whole organisation 3 days per week.  He will be doing this in conjunction with an IT lead but is a system designed to manage all services for a multi-million pound organisation.

Martin initially referred himself on a short term employment project designed to support autistic people to find work.  He was very quiet, shy and anxious.  The timing was good as their current admin had just left and he did some work experience with the team.  It was tough for him, as working even part time hours left him exhausted, and for the first few years he had little social life as work took so much of his energy. 

Martin has supported people doing job coaching, helped at job clubs, developed IT reports for the team's performance monitoring, trained employers and JCP staff in autism awareness, been an autism champion and is co-chair of the autism partnership board employment subgroup. He also supervises 2 assistant administrators. One of his real strengths is as a role model for other autistic people to see what can be achieved. 

As one of the team says, "Martin is always my "go to" if I need an answer on something.  He is never too busy to help with the smallest of requests and I cannot even imagine what would we do without him!"


Learner of the Year

Dominique Cooper (Blueberry Academy)

Her tutor, Liz Mellor, says that Dominique was an absolute pleasure to teach and assess. She was a very bubbly, lively member of the cohort. She wasn’t afraid to ask questions and made insightful contributions and well as helping and encouraging the other learners. 

Liz says, "When undertaking her workplace assessment, I was very struck just how engaged she was with employers, really using what she’d been taught, seeing them as customers and getting the maximum from every opportunity. I observed her at York St John’s university where a range of staff in a variety of areas were completely on board with working with the students from Blueberry and they sang Dom’s praises. Equally she showed a very natural rapport with her leaners who were well matched and enjoying their work."

She took away what she learnt and has influenced positive changes to practice at Blueberry, particularly around vocational profiling and employer engagement. They have developed a new profile, which is thorough and available in various formats. They are now also developing a more broad-brush approach to employer engagement. Dom has also been promoted in her role and is leading on embedding changes.

We wish Dominique well as she is a brilliant example of a supported employment practitioner.