A new network to improve employment opportunities for people with Additional Support Needs across the South of Scotland has been unveiled.
Launching on Friday 22 October, the first ever South of Scotland Additional Support Needs Learning Network is a cross-region third sector network developed between The Usual Place of Dumfries and Borders Additional Needs Group (BANG) of the Scottish Borders.
The two-year pilot project, facilitated by Inspiring Scotland, has been supported by a grant of over £48,000 from South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE) this year, with the agency pledging to provide the same sum again next year.
The ASN Learning Network will share best practice, identify innovative approaches, and ensure the voice of lived experience is at the forefront in improving employment opportunities for autistic people, those with learning disabilities and those with sensory impairment.
The ASN Learning Network will challenge the notion that people with additional needs are not able or willing to work, by providing evidence that this population can, and does, contribute to economic activity.
Founded by Inspired Community Enterprise Trust (ICET) who run Dumfries-based café ‘The Usual Place’, as well as BANG in the Scottish Borders, the Network will bring together organisations who have an interest in and can make meaningful change for those with ASN and employment.
In addition to sharing best practice in innovative approaches and business models, the network will also engage directly with those with lived experience of ASN, including individuals, parents, and carers.
The identified priorities, barriers and recommendations will be communicated to funders and decision-makers who can use this information to better understand the sector and opportunities this population can give.
Pauline Grigor, CEO of BANG and Community Coordinator at Scottish Borders Autism, said:
“There is a huge need for organisations and people to come together to share their learning so that South of Scotland can be the go-to place for inclusive employment.
“The Learning Network is one way that we can make this happen, and it’s very exciting.”
Heather Hall, CEO of ICET, added:
“We have already supported young people who have been written off by society to gain qualifications.
“Many have moved on to become financially independent, in careers including being a chef, a carer, retail assistant, administrator and starting their own business. A number have also bought their own homes.”
Kirsty Gilchrist, Lead Advisory at Inspiring Scotland, said:
“This is such an exciting opportunity to showcase the brilliant work that is already being done in the South of Scotland and to truly understand how we can overcome barriers, and open doors to increasing employment and economic activity, particularly while we are all wrestling with the effects of the pandemic.”
Kathy Cremin, Community Development Specialist at SOSE, added:
“SOSE recognises the vital and ground-breaking work third sector partners ICET and BANG do to ensure young people with additional support needs get the support and opportunities that they deserve.
“The collaborative mindset and leadership these partners bring to the ASN Network will provide opportunities to further Fair Work in new and innovative partnerships.
“The two-year support package being offered demonstrates SOSE’s commitment to Fair Work in action, and our hope that the ASN Network will enable practitioners, statutory partners and employers to make meaningful progress towards providing employment opportunities for individuals with ASN.”
Professor Russel Griggs OBE, SOSE Chair, said:
“SOSE is pleased to be supporting the launch of the ASN Learning Network.
“This pilot project aims to have a hugely positive impact on the lives of those with ASN across both Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders and will help organisations better realise the employment potential of these individuals.”
The first online session of the ASN Learning Network will be between 11am and 1pm on 22 October. All organisations that would like to be part of the Network should contact [email protected].