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Triangle Housing Association marks national Learning Disability Week through its Progression to Employment scheme

Learning Disability Week (19-25 June) is the national week devoted to raising awareness about learning disability. This year the week focuses on the role of employment and Triangle Housing Association has highlighted the importance of its Progression to Employment (PTE) service, which provides the necessary support systems to enable adults with a learning disability to achieve and maintain meaningful employment.

The aim of the service is to guide individuals towards the open labour market according to their capabilities. For many the service provides a vital first step to enable them to progress, aspire to and potentially avail of mainstream employment programmes and opportunities where appropriate, thereby putting them on a more equal footing to non-disabled individuals.

The PTE service currently employ 25 staff through Triangle’s assistance and has been operating for over 20 years, helping hundreds of adults develop skills and confidence with many going onto achieve meaningful employment.

This week is of particular importance to the association, as highlighted by Norman Sterritt, PTE Manager at Triangle Housing. Norman said: “Having been involved for so many years in the delivery of Supported Employment services to people with learning disabilities it is great to have the opportunity to showcase the benefits of the approach as an effective model to support the integration of people with disabilities into society. In 2015 the model was officially recognised and incorporated within the Northern Ireland Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities.

“At an international level, Article 27 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) provides us with direction and authority to present the Supported Employment Model as a vehicle in support of government’s commitment to the implementation of this international human rights treaty and in so doing enable people with disabilities to play their rightful part in contributing to society through employment.”

Over the years Triangle Housing has had many success stories through the PTE service, including a young man named Darren Murphy who commenced various work placements in the catering sector at the age of 21. Darren is currently an employee with McDonalds in Carrickfergus and this month he is celebrating his first work-anniversary with the global fast food chain.

Darren initially received intensive job support from his assigned Employment Officer, Laura Euler, who assisted him with understanding the various duties of his role to ensure that he appropriately integrated with the wider team.

Laura, who is employed by Triangle Housing, said of the experience: “I now monitor the work placement by visiting him once every 6 weeks. We are always communicating with Darren and staff to check there are no concerns or any need for change, at which point we would be able to step back in and provide more intensive support where necessary.”

“Darren has made great progress, he has gained financial independence for the first time in his life, he has gained confidence in his abilities, improved his skill set and made new friends, and it’s fantastic to see.”

Kerry Shaw, McDonald’s People Manager said “Darren is a highly valued member of the team, and is very popular with his fellow crew members and regular customers. At McDonald’s we pride ourselves on employing a great range of people and working with Darren over the past year I admire his dedication and the positive effect he has on everyone.”

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust contributes to the funding of the PTE service. Garth Anderson, Day Opportunities Programme Manager for the Northern Trust, commented: “We are delighted to work in partnership with Triangle, providing match funding to this valuable service which means that those with a learning disability can play an active role in our society.  This service is part of the Day Opportunities Programme which promotes vocational services and socially inclusive opportunities as it benefits not only the individual, but society as a whole.

“The Progression to Employment Service is one of several that the Trust support which allows us to ensure that half of our day services are in the community rather than traditional adult centre facilities.  We’re delighted with the achievement to date and look forward to continuing to offer service users opportunities that allow them to reach their full potential.”

The PTE scheme is funded by The European Social Fund, The Department for Communities and The Northern Health and Social Care Trust.