Scottish disabled people have more options than they might imagine helping them to get into education and employment.

Employability in its broad sense is the notion that success in market performance is best secured when the collected wisdom of all employees and management is pooled. It’s a fitting title then to have been adopted by those interested in providing better employment prospects than already exist for disabled people, since at its heart is the idea that greater diversity equals a greater input of fresh thinking into a business or organisation.

Disabled people across Scotland will also reason that there’s never been a better or more necessary time to learn about employability. The Government is clearly set on a policy of ending a culture of benefits and replacing it with helping to find employment options for disabled people instead. Lots of disabled people, have, if you like, noticed that it has ‘started to rain’ and are constructing their ‘arks’.

Good news

The upside is that there are a growing number of companies and organisations in Scotland that promote the value of employing disabled people and indeed showcases them as an ‘untapped’ resource. The general argument is that this is good news in a time of skills shortage and at a fragile moment for our nation’s economic health.

It isn’t just employers that organisations such as Inclusion Scotland, Scottish Disability Equality Forum or even social enterprises like Haven Recycle, Upkeep, Flycup Catering and the many others that exist need to convince; it’s potential employees too.

The fact is that disabled people enjoy a range of benefits over and above the empowerment of a wage. Employment is known to develop skills and increase the chances of further opportunities, builds confidence, physical and mental wellbeing as well as social benefits such as making friends and securing other contacts.

Perhaps it’s the long list of benefits that puts some disabled people off since it can, from the outside look like a purely charitable project, which could be potentially embarrassing for some. Social enterprises, for example, are often run purely for the benefit of employees, their community or not-for-profit but that doesn’t mean that the opportunities are not real. Indeed, SDEF state clearly that: “People with disabilities should receive the support and services they require to live independently”. This is distinct from simply ‘receiving support’ which wouldn’t result in the same outcomes at all.

Organisations like SDEF et al want to reach out to employers and potential employees alike and explain to them the sustainable benefits behind their projects. They’re task to change the way people look at employment is vast but they seem prepared to take it on, one case at a time.

Haven Recycle

When Rory was due to leave Kersland School in Paisley, his future was uncertain. His depute head teacher, Mick Kelly, arranged work experience at Haven Recycle, and after an interview, Rory was accepted to work one day a week.

employability-body-image-1Rory was shy, but very motivated and got ‘stuck in’ straight away. After a time Rory decided his future lay with Haven, but there were no placements available. Determined to succeed, Rory worked as a volunteer until a placement came up. His experience stood him in good stead and he was first choice for the role of production operator two days per week when the opportunity became available.

Based in Haven’s WEEE recycling activity, Rory is responsible for the dismantling of kit within the factory. It’s an important job as our customers rely on us to recycle equipment safely and securely.

Rory can’t wait for work on Mondays – on Fridays he reminds his mum to book his transport. To keep himself busy on his non-work days he has applied to be a play leader with another organisation, and we were happy to provide a glowing reference. The shy young man who started on work experience has turned into a valuable employee that Haven is proud of. Well done Rory!

Real Life – How Lead Scotland Helped Amy

Amy was referred to Lead Scotland by her guidance teacher at school, and after being accepted joined our MCMC SCOPE group in Westhill where she worked on improving skills such as IT, budgeting, confidence and social skills. 

employability-body-image-5-lead-scotlandWe supported Amy to apply and prepare for college and she was successful in attaining two unconditional places – one in Aberdeen and one from Barony College in Dumfries. The confidence and skills developed whilst working with Lead allowed her to accept the Dumfries offer where she boarded. This was a huge step for Amy as she is on the autistic spectrum and finds social situations very difficult. 

Over the summer Amy worked at Newton Dee on a full time basis and managed to save over £1,000 for her college fund. Amy was supported in this opportunity by both her mum and Lead Scotland in the form of an Activity Agreement. Amy also achieved her 25 hours Saltire Award.

Amy left Lead in August to take up her transitional place at Barony College on an Animal Care course, however, she kept in touch with our Learning Co-ordinator. This proved very successful and helped motivate and keep Amy on track. Amy’s mum commented to say: “Thank you for taking the time in keeping in regular touch with Amy I do think that has really helped.” Amy was the first student to receive the Barony College trophy for inspiration. This was a unanimous decision by the College and they commented that she was a student who had overcome difficulties and progressed.

Amy received her NC in Animal Care in March and she has since re-engaged with Lead Scotland who helped her secure a Stage 3 Employability Course, both Amy and her mum were delighted with this. As well as this, Amy also secured a job working at Morrisons. Amy completed her Employability with the Premier Inn and has since attended an interview and been offered a receptionist job with them.

Both Amy’s mum and everybody at Lead Scotland are so proud of Amy and all of her many achievements.

Lead Scotland offer a free information service for disabled people faced with barriers to learning as well as a newsletter and helpline.

Freephone helpline: 0800 999 2568 (open Monday to Friday 9.30-11.30am).

SCVO – Providing opportunity

employability-body-image-3-scldCameron Smith joined SCLD on the CJF program from SCVO with 18 month’s funding as a receptionist. At the end of the funding we were able to extend his contract and Cameron has been a great addition to the team at SCLD.  The funding enabled SCLD to really invest in Cameron, giving him the time and support to learn the role and also encouraging him to expand on his other experience, skills and interests.

Cameron said: “Before I joined SCLD, I was a project search intern. SCLD has been a great employer, I’ve learned a lot, and did loads of new things that I wouldn’t have imagined doing, such as speaking at two national conferences about my experiences on Project Search and achieving SVQ qualifications. 

The Community Job Fund has been great as well, as I have worked on the Moving on Up programme from SCVO. It’s been great as I’ve learned something new every week.”

employability-body-image-4-scldJordan has also had similar success at VIAS, saying: “I am really enjoying working for VIAS. It is a great organisation to work for. They have helped me improve my confidence.

I am now more confident travelling independently. I have gained a lot of skills during my two years and also gained a SVQ qualification in administration. I recommend working for VIAS as they have supported and helped me greatly.

Scottish Disability Equality Forum


The Scottish Disability Equality Forum (SDEF) works with organisations to influence Scottish Government policies which affect how disabled people live as well as working with access panels across Scotland who provide advice and support to disabled people in their local communities. Although SDEF also deals with other issues, employability is an area that they have expertise in. Through employability schemes they seek to promote independent living and remove barriers to inequality for those affected by disability in Scotland. 

Recently, the SDEF and Borders Social Enterprise Chamber (SBSEC) have been working in partnership on a project to increase the awareness of the benefits of employing a disabled person, along with increasing employment prospects of disabled people in the Scottish Borders.

The project runs through three stages where, firstly, an organisation is provided with case studies and other evidence as to the value that employing a disabled person can bring to them. They will then be invited to record their own process of employing and retaining disabled people and, thirdly, gather further evidence and provide recommendations to other businesses (providing a sustainable element to the project).


The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) has also been working in partnership with Inclusion Scotland and Scottish Disability Equality Forum to create paid Internships within third sector organisations for disabled graduates.

Graduates who are defined as disabled under the Equality Act 2010 (‘someone who has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’) are at least 18 years old and either unemployed or under-employed and hold an HND (Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) Level 8) or above, are invited to apply to the opportunities listed on the SDEF website.

The scheme is funded by the Scottish Government who will pay for internships at 35 hours a week and £7.85 per hour, lasting for 13 weeks. There will be some flexibility to do a reduced number of hours over a longer period if this is deemed to be beneficial for the intern and the employer, so the 455 hours could be spread over a longer period of time.

Whilst employers are not asked to contribute to the funding of the internship they are required to provide a range of additional support to the intern to improve the quality of the opportunity, including induction, regular support and supervision and provision of a reference.

Internships are available across Scotland and aim to be across a range of occupational sectors including social care, conservation, community recycling, sports, creative industries, youth work and housing, etc.

The intern receives the opportunity to work on a discrete project with a specific focus that is of value to the organisation, rather than a more general role within the organisation. The intern will be employed directly by the employer and will be subject to their policies and procedures.

Internships provide crucial ‘on-the-job’ training and experience in real-world employment scenarios that people can take lessons from as well as record on their CVs’.