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Joe’s Soapbox, September 2023

author icon author icon 10/10/2023 author icon Joe's Soapbox

Sharing the results

On the 12th September The Engage to Change Project held a ‘Sharing the results’ event at the Pierhead Building in Cardiff Bay.

The Engage to Change project was focused on employment opportunities for 16 – 25 year olds with autism, learning disabilities and learning difficulties.

It was funded by the ‘Getting Ahead 2’ grant which was money from unclaimed bank accounts.

It was over ten million pounds.

It was funded by the Welsh Government and administered by the Big Lottery.

All Wales People First were project partners with:

Learning Disability Wales

Elite Supported Employment Agency

Agoriad Cyf

NCMH (National Centre for Mental Health) Cardiff University.

DFN Project Search.

All Wales People First employed the project ambassadors and held evaluation forums with our members and the NCMH.

The project was originally funded for five years but was then extended for two more years.

All Wales People First decided to not be formal partners after year five.

But we still worked on the project with the NCMH delivering Member Engagement sessions.

Some people in Wales were disappointed that the project only focused on people that were 16 – 25.

But those were the terms of the ‘Getting Ahead 2’ grant.

Ten million pounds sounds like it is a lot of money.

And in a way it is. It is the biggest amount of money ever spent on a project like this.

But ten million pounds does not go as far as people think.

Although I was delighted the project would create employment opportunities for people with autism, learning disabilities and learning difficulties, I was more excited by the prospect of the opportunities the success of the project could create for all people with learning disabilities and autism in Wales.

For me it was about the bigger picture.

Now that we have the results it is time to push for change.

That is the biggest role I see for All Wales People First in this.

The Sharing the results event was sponsored by Vaughan Gething MS, Minister of the Economy.

The event was chaired excellently by Ambassador Gerraint Jones-Griffiths.

Doctor Steve Beyer of the NCMH presented the project results.

The results showed that with the right support and the right environment, people with autism and learning disabilities can succeed in the workplace.

You can see the results for yourself on the Engage to Change website.

Hefin Davis MS, spoke about the Engage to Change project.

And how it was close to his heart as a parent of a daughter on the autism spectrum.

Hefin said that the Engage to Change project made a big impression on him.

He has written a report called ‘Transitions to Employment’ which makes recommendations to the Welsh Government about the changes needed to extend employment opportunities for people with learning disabilities and autism.

He said that his eighth recommendation around ‘job-coaching’ was influenced by the Engage to Change project.

Job Coaching and supported Internships were a big part of the projects success.

The project Manager Angela Kenvyn and Ambassador Gerraint Jones-Griffiths had made a strong impression on Hefin.

If you want to read Hefins report, you can find it at:

Or you can google – Hefin Davies – June – Transitions to Employment.

It was lovely to see films of project participants speaking about their experiences of Engage to Change.

And their employers.

Learning Disability Wales, NCMH and Elite Supported Agency were funded in June 2023 for an extra eighteen months to take forward the policy, research, and legacy work of the Engage to Change project.

It is important that the success of this project is not forgotten.

And the lessons we learn are used for positive change in the future.

All Wales People First will do all it can to help with this.

Employment is one of the themes in our 2021 Manifesto.

I would like to congratulate the project partners for their work on the project to date.

And to wish the remaining partners the best of luck in the final stages of the project.

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