The Strangford MLA said: “Northern Ireland has the lowest percentage of people with disabilities in employment across these islands. The former European Social Fund (ESF) provided investment for organisations who supported people with disabilities into and in employment.
“The end of ESF monies on the 31st March means 1700 skilled staff will lose their jobs and 17000 people with disabilities will no longer be supported into employment. The UK Shared Prosperity Fund will not replace the lost ‘access to employment’ funding.
“If 1700 jobs were being made redundant in manufacturing, digital economy or banking there would be demands for a rescue package to save those jobs.
“I am calling for a rescue package of £40million to provide a bridge between ESF and whatever the incoming Executive will plan to help people with disabilities into employment and to keep skilled staff in the sector. I want both governments to help invest in the future for people with disabilities.
“In the absence of an Executive, on behalf of 17000 people with disabilities and the 21 organisations that provide access to employment support, I am calling on both governments to help. £40m is a lot of money but it could provide 2 years of support into employment rather than 2 years of abandonment for people with learning or physical disabilities.”