- The Danshell Group

Sustainable Hub of Innovative
Employment for People with
Complex Needs (SHIEC)
Carl Johnson
Sarah Cooling
Frank Proctor
To ensure that people of all ages with
complex needs are properly supported to
have the same life opportunities as
everyone else, including employment,
home life, education and leisure
The HUB - A meeting of minds
a shared recognition from carer, academic, policy and service perspectives
that for the most part….
employment for people with learning disabilities who have complex needs is
not happening
we know this from research but most directly from our lived experience
within the region (and beyond) it is exceptionally rare to find any example of
people with complex needs in employment.
Why is this the case?
Employment for people with learning disabilities and further complex
needs is:
• Highlighted as a goal in policy (Valuing People Now/
Employment Now)
• Evidenced as theoretically and practically possible in
research (Gold)
• What carers and those with disabilities want and
• have a right to
How can we change this?
• We need to find new ways of working through partnership. The skills,
knowledge & resources are available but not being used effectively.
• We need to keep a definite focus on bringing about social change for people
with the most complex needs through employment
• If we can ensure change for this most complex group, a ripple of positive
influence will be generated for those with other needs, including people
with milder learning disabilities
• It is not about re-inventing the wheel, but moving it in a different direction
about working together to build on current systems and ensure sustainable
The innovative nature of the project:
• ensures commitment to a frequently
neglected group of individuals
• maximizes and enhances existing resources
• draws stakeholders together in a fresh context
• reflects the diversity of employment needs
and opportunities within the region
• allows for adaptation and creation of new
resources and approaches to support people
with complex needs who are socially excluded
Definition of Complex Needs:
1. People with profound and multiple
learning disabilities
“Have more than one disability, the most
significant of which is a profound learning
disability. All people...will have great difficulty
communicating. Many...will have additional
sensory or physical disabilities, complex
health needs or mental health
difficulties...All...will need high levels of
support with most aspects of daily life”
• 2. People with severe-profound learning
disabilities and challenging behaviour
• Participants within this sub-sample must have a
severe-profound learning disability and display
behaviour that meets the following criteria:
• “Behaviour can be described as challenging
when it is of such an intensity, frequency or
duration as to threaten the quality of life and/or
the physical safety of the individual or others and
is likely to lead to responses that are restrictive,
aversive or result in exclusion”
• 3. People with mild-moderate-severe learning
disabilities and a history of offending
behaviour and / or significant mental health
• Participants within this sub-sample must have a
moderate –severe learning disability and either:
• A history of offending behaviour that has
required specialist forensic input
• A history of mental health difficulties that has
resulted in a Mental Health Section
Hub Partners
The Challenging Behaviour Foundation
The Tizard Centre (University of Kent
South East Coast Strategic Health Authority
Linkage Community Trust
Lincolnshire County Council
United Response
John Townsend Trust
Avenues Trust
What are the Issues?
Low Expectations
Limited Opportunities
Poor Employer Development
Lack of Expertise in Identifying Individuals’
• Current Systems
• Fear of Change
• Always Last Group
The need for a cultural shift within provider organisations
Provider organisations often have limited experience or training directly
relevant to supporting employment for people with learning disabilities in
general, let alone those with additional complex needs. As such there has
historically been a lack of both aspirations and systems to support people
with complex needs into work. In response to this, SHIEC has aimed to raise
expectations and organisational commitment regarding the employment of
people with complex needs, by challenging traditional models of care.
SHIEC aims to provide further clarity regarding the DWP Benefits systems and
flexible use of Individualised budgets, to
enable people with complex needs to secure and retain employment whilst
maintaining appropriate levels of support.
The need for a responsive and adaptive approach
Pathways to employment for people with learning disabilities and complex needs are likely to be
lengthy and require sustained commitment and motivation from those who provide and structure
support. Throughout the initial stages of the SHIEC project, the physical, mental and behavioural needs
of individuals has fluctuated requiring ongoing adaptations to planned systems of support.
At times this has meant changing direction following considerable investment of time and resources to
develop employment opportunities. Within this context, SHIEC has aimed to sustain the vision,
motivation and ability of all stakeholders to meet the needs and employment aspirations of individuals
with complex needs.
The need to engage in relationships of trust with employers
At a national level, exceptionally few employers have considered the potential of supporting people
with learning disabilities and complex needs within the workplace. SHIEC has recognised the need to
present a business case to organisations that promotes the benefits of employing people with complex
needs and resolves any concerns they may have.
This has included highlighting the innovative nature of supported employment models and
demonstrating a commitment to provide ongoing systems of support. Ultimately SHIEC aims to develop
relationships of mutual trust with employers through persistent efforts to fuse the perspectives and values of
business and social care.
The Story So Far
Following an initial period of development, the SHIEC project began in May 2010.
Since this point the following milestones have been reached:
Identification of 61 people across the UK who have learning disabilities and
complex needs and are seeking employment.
The formation of a supportive network comprising of provider organisations,
educational services, family carers, policy makers and academics. SHIEC members
meet on a regular basis to discuss progress, barriers and solutions regarding
pathways to employment for people with complex needs.
This has proved invaluable in terms of sharing learning, helping to solve problems
encountered, providing continuous encouragement to those involved and
maintaining the integrity and aims of the project. Further ongoing facilitation of
the network and direct support is provided by a Project Manager.
SHIEC members have sought innovative ways of approaching and engaging with
employers (including running an employer’s breakfast briefing forum and targeting
large employer organisations at a senior level). SHIEC members have also shared
learning with other supported employment organisations and projects.
SHIEC members have worked together to develop, share and complete materials
for identifying and supporting the aspirations of people with complex needs to
work (through systems of vocational profiling).
12 people with complex needs are now engaged in some form of paid
employment. Another individual has achieved 16+ hours of paid work (see case
example). A further 25 people with complex needs have been supported to access
voluntary or work experience placements.
Organisations involved in the project have reported further positive outcomes
among staff teams in terms of changing expectations and putting employment on
the agenda for people with learning disabilities. Within one organisation, at the
time the SHIEC project commenced, 3/31 people with learning disabilities but not
complex needs were in voluntary work placements. Since then, 16/31 are using
voluntary placements as a stepping stone to paid employment.
I have a
I am
years old
I was
born in
I have been diagnosed
with Cerebral Palsy &
I am non-verbal
however have
the ability to say
a selection of
words e.g. Yes,
No, Bye, Hello.
I communicate
through using
makaton signs & by
using hand gestures
e.g. pointing at what
I want or to indicate
what I am talking
• I was really
interested in
getting into paid
employment in a
job that I would
find interesting.
• I started by
searching for
to gain some
more skills
to put on my
Volunteering at Wellgate Farm
Job Role Includes:
• Cleaning out, feed, pet & give
water to rabbits.
• Water the plants.
• Brush the kids (baby goats)
• Hold chicks & move them from
outside in to the warm.
•I loved looking after the rabbits
so much I got my own named
• I was successful in my
interview for the position
of assistant waiter, my
first job interview!!
• I have been there for just over 2
months and I really enjoy it.
•I work 2 hours a week during cafe
opening hours which are 11am-1pm
every Thursday & I earn £7.20 per
•I help to lay the table cloths and set
the table. I clear the dishes and clean
up after everyone has finished eating.
• I absolutely love
Football & really want to
work in the Football
• I have been offered
the chance to sell
Match Day Programs
on the day of football
matches and any other
additional positions.
• A number of football
clubs have been
approached and I got
a response from
Dagenham &
• This will be on
a voluntary
Thank You!
Real Life Stories
Real stories
Issues facing SHIEC Members which outlined the structural barriers involved in the
process (e.g. finances and mobility) as well as outlining staff anxieties surrounding
supporting someone with complex needs into employment and the need for realism
to deal with knockbacks and the slow pace of the process.
‘Sometimes you go into a place of employment and you can see that people are just seeing the
wheelchair, they are not looking at the person’ (5, 4)
‘Some mental health issues, so we take three steps forward and a step back’ (10, 3).
‘I worry about the knock on effects for the young people because you know, we all suffer with
disappointment but we are setting these guys up to fail if we continue on the same cycle.’ (10,
[Job centre disability employment advisor] only works half a day per week’ (5, 3)
It’s like the 11th phone call and no-one has rung back, I sometimes think I don’t know how I
am going to get through this’ (7, 1)
‘Well I have thought of a lot of things and anything we have thought of we have pursued
but it is very, very difficult, very difficult’ (5, 3)
Commitment which depicts how staff and service providers needed high levels of commitment in
order to support people with complex needs into employment. This included being resilient to
knockbacks, maintaining a positive attitude and thinking creatively about employment solutions
as well as being emotionally invested in the project personally.
‘We have got to keep looking and thinking of other ideas, there has got to be a job somewhere
that he can do’ (5, 5).
‘You have got to be prepared to put a lot in for maybe a little return at times’ (6,8)
‘You have got to stay positive because I think if you start to be negative then it impacts on the
service users’ (3,2)
‘Look at outcomes, be positive and see how you can get the best out of people’ (5, 8)
Working together, which outlines the benefits of SHIEC as a support network. The need for
organisations to work together to make employment possible for people with complex needs was
expressed. This involved the need to engage frontline staff and specified that staff need certain
characteristics in order to maintain the search for employment. Within this, the need for
leadership within organisations is emphasised as well as the fact that SHIEC provides a social
network which encourages working together.
‘Getting the staff more focused on employment as a priority rather than something that just
might happen’ (3, 1)
‘It is a really motivating and really rewarding project to work in, it is pioneering and exciting’
(2, 4)
‘The key is having a shared goal I suppose because I think if it wasn’t for that, it wouldn’t have
had the same priority even for me’ (6,5)
Networking with other people [has been useful] and learning from the way they have done
things’ (1, 4)
Positive Pay Offs is a theme which highlights individual outcomes arising from the project. The
majority of participants also described being surprised with some of the outcomes at some
stages in the SHIEC process.
‘The skills that service users have got have really surprised me’ (2, 4)
‘It surprised me how a lot of the service users want to work full time, you know, they are keen for
full time work’ (2, 4)
‘He is a lot more communicative, when I first worked with him I couldn’t understand him at
all…now you can sit down and have a chat with him’ (2,3)
‘She feels more comfortable and I think she is more confident’ (1,3)
The Ripple Effect which outlines the positive outcomes on staff members involved in the SHIEC
project which included a buzz which was reported within organisations and a general raising of
expectations contributing to cultural change within organisations. It was also expressed however,
that there were some ongoing goals related to organisational change and the ripple effect.
‘Staff there are starting to ask questions now about why isn’t this person being considered for
employment’ (6, 3)
‘It has opened up opportunities hasn’t it, we have got a better realisation of what individuals can do’
Questions Please!
Frank Proctor – frank.proctor@thecbf.org.uk