Time is running out for employment support services, says Armstrong

Kellie Armstrong Executive

Time is running out for disability employment support services funded by the European Social Fund (ESF), Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong has said.

The Strangford MLA was speaking after holding an event on behalf of the Northern Ireland Union of Supported Employment (NIUSE) at Stormont.

With the ESF due to end on March 31 and currently no Executive to agree a Budget, she said the hundreds of disabled people needing support in employment were being left without a service.

“Organisations such as NIUSE and others provide support to help people with disabilities to get into and be supported in work. But we are less than 200 days away from their funding running out,” said Ms Armstrong, who is Chair of the Assembly’s All-Party Group on Learning Disability.

“Northern Ireland has the lowest rate of employment for people with disabilities across the UK already but these organisations having no funding means upwards of 1,700 workers being notified of redundancy this Christmas and 17,000 people with disabilities will be left without support to be employed.  

“Time is running out to ensure continuity of funding for these vital services. Today’s event looked at the way forward and the actions which are needed to ensure future provision of the disability employment services currently funded through the ESF, which are at immediate risk.

“We need to get funding to continue these vital services, and ensure those people with disabilities who wish to work are given the support to do so.”