Clive Parry meets new ARC England member Langdon and asks what do employment services look like for our other members?

Langdon logoARC England is pleased to welcome as members, Langdon, an education and supported accommodation provider supporting over 120 people in Manchester, Edgware and Borehamwood.

Langdon is named after Margaret Langdon, a Manchester Jewish philanthropist who set up a school in 1921. Langdon’s support, which includes in-house employment services, is provided within a Jewish ethos.

I was able to meet several of the the people who draw on support (called members) when I visited the hugely impressive New Chapters operation in Harrow recently. The Langdon employment offer prepares adults with a learning disability and autism who are motivated to find employment and require targeted job entry support

Man searching bookshelves at Langdon New Chapters

Here, I saw a busy and efficient operation in which the members sort, label and sell second-hand books on e-commerce platforms such as Amazon and I was able to see first-hand how much coming into the workplace every day to undertake meaningful activities means to the individuals who work there.

I also saw a group of highly focused people who understand the work they are doing and derive great enjoyment from it, and I was particularly struck by how well the local management team have adapted roles, work processes and the environment to suit the needs of those members who have an autism spectrum condition diagnosis.

This included using the principles of task analysis and elements taken from systematic instruction to tailor the work so that each individual is able to do the things that they find interesting, fulfilling and are best at, and to work in ways that met their individual learning, sensory and physical support needs.

The visit reminded me of my (many) years spent delivering and overseeing supported employment programmes from the Sheltered Placement Scheme to Workstep, Workprep and NDDP (New Deal for Disable People) because the focus at Langdon is on making the job fit the person and not the other way round.

This is redolent of the early supported employment models which, whilst not hugely scalable (and therefore of limited interest to many of those charged with making decisions about how providers that help disabled people to get work are funded), nevertheless successfully placed people in employment situations that they were well matched to and then provided them with all the support they needed to be able to sustain and flourish in their new job.

The team at New Chapters made me really welcome and showed me how the model includes pre-employment support, tailored in-work support, training and skills development so that those members who want to work get the paid and voluntary work opportunities they need to be able to prepare for the next step in their careers.

I would describe this as a ‘wraparound’ approach, in that advice, guidance and support is offered in relation to job-matching, benefits, in-house learning and development, plus the support needed to help the person to find, apply for, successfully interview for, secure and then sustain work.

I think it is perhaps this comprehensive, truly person-led approach that took me back to the early 1990’s when this was how any successful supported employment provider operated but which is an approach that we somehow lost touch with in the drive to deliver ever-increasing job entry numbers.

As we welcome Langdon to the ARC England community, I’d like to open up a discussion about employment and meaningful work-related activities for those supported people who want this and some questions that might perhaps get this started are:

  • Which other ARC England members operate an employment service and how is your offer similar to and different from the Langdon approach?
  • For members that have been thinking about developing an employment service, where are you up to, what do the next steps look like and would there be value in making connections with other members which share this ambition?
  • What are the barriers to using some of the commissioned support hours associated with individual packages of care to help a person to take steps towards work?
  • What other opportunities exist with ARC members for social enterprises involving adults with learning disabilities?

Drop me an email with your thoughts… clive.parry@arcuk.org.uk

Clive Parry

ARC England Director