State Street and Rethink Ireland have awarded €1.5 million from the Ability to Work Fund to four not-for-profit organisations who are giving employment opportunities to those living with a disability.

The Fund, launched in November 2019 by State Street Foundation and Rethink Ireland, is supported by the Department of Social Protection through its Dormant Accounts Fund.

It aims to reach 500 people with disabilities across the country and empower 250 people to progress along pathways to employment.

It recognises that having a job and enabling a person with a disability to become more financially and socially independent benefits the individual, their families, their employers and society at large.

The four Awardees are:

WALK and its subsidiary, Walkinstown Green Social Enterprises, which provides education, training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities, autism, and other barriers to employment through the operation of the Green Kitchen Café and the Green Garden. Through these programmes, WGSE provides a bridge to mainstream employment and has supported people into work with 51 different employers including the Houses of the Oireachtas, Compass at Google, Facebook, Accenture, Tallaght University Hospital and Costa Coffee.

Employability Pathways is an employability model, set up by the Dublin Simon Community, which caters for the most vulnerable individuals in society, namely people experiencing homelessness who are also living with a disability. The model focuses on individual pathways for their clients, ensuring that clients' specific needs are met and their personal goals are achieved. Since 2016, they have helped 28 individuals complete a Level 5 QQI Health & Fitness course through their in-house gym.

Not So Different promotes inclusion and equality of people who are neurodiverse through employment and education. NSD Creative Hub, Irelands' first Neurodiversity simulated work place environment where individuals’ innate skills and talents acquired through NSD training are showcased to employers. Since 2019, 70 students received employment supports of which 54 engaged in professional accredited training and 35 in work place initiatives.

The UCC Disability Support Service Mentoring Programme matches students registered with the DSS to a professional mentor for an academic year and provides students with a meaningful opportunity to develop their employability skills through regular meetings with their mentor in the workplace. The project also supports employers to develop a better understanding of disability issues. For the 2019/2020 academic year, the programme ran 71 mentoring partnerships with 9 companies involved. 

Commenting on the announcement of today's awardees, Heather Humphreys, Minister for Social Protection and Community and Rural Development acknowledged the importance of the initiative.

"I am delighted that my Department is supporting The Ability to Work Fund. It is an important initiative which will provide a pathway and supports into work for people living with a disability and I congratulate the Awardees, Rethink Ireland and State Street on today’s announcement," she said.