The winners of the 2019 ERSA (Employment Related Services Association) Employability Awards, were announced, recently at a ceremony in London. The awards celebrate best practice across the employment support sector and seek to demonstrate the day-to-day hard work and dedication of those working to improve the lives of job seekers, communities and the wider workforce.

ERSA received over 150 entries across 10 categories, demonstrating the breadth of work in the sector. Able Magazine is an official media partner with ERSA and shares a common goal to improve employability among disabled people. On the night it was the Poppy Factory who were announced as winners of the Disability and Health Employment award.

The Poppy Factory was founded in 1922 to provide employment for service personnel injured in the First World War. They launched a new employability programme in 2010 which is bespoke and evidence-based and helps wounded, injured and sick veterans back into meaningful and sustained employment within their own local communities. Today, The Poppy Factory is considered the nation’s largest employability service for veterans with physical and mental health conditions. Last year, their 1,000th disabled veteran was supported back into meaningful work.

One of their success stories is Russ Kirby who left the Royal Navy after his left arm was paralysed in a motorcycle accident. The Poppy Factory helped the dad-of-four achieve his goal of turning his hobby into a business, creating bespoke mounts and frames for everything from wedding shoes and football shirts to military badges, medals and uniforms.

Russ said: “The support I had from The Poppy Factory has been crucial. To have someone there, face-to-face, listening to me and supporting me, made a world of difference.” You can see his work at:

Chief Executive of The Poppy Factory, Deirdre Mills, said: “We are delighted to receive this award. It recognises not just the dedication of our own employability team, but the individual success of every veteran who, with the support of The Poppy Factory, has refused to be held back by a health condition as they move forward into a new job or career.”

ERSA’s Interim Chief Executive, Elizabeth Taylor, said: “On behalf of everyone at ERSA, I would like to say a huge congratulations to this year’s winners. We are delighted to celebrate the achievements of individuals and organisations across the employment support sector – from the frontline advisers supporting people towards employment, the jobseekers overcoming huge barriers to work and the organisations ready to give people that much-needed chance. Thank you to everyone who entered this year’s awards.”

Minister for Employment, Alok Sharma MP, also sent his support for the event, saying: “I want to thank and congratulate all of this year’s winners and runners-up, for all their fantastic work on behalf of jobseekers up and down the country. We have more people in work than ever before, but projects like these are making sure we spread that opportunity even further and provide vital support to those looking for work.”

A full list of winners can be seen at:
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