Helen Smith receives award for her work in Supported Employment

Posted 22/11/2023

Helen Smith, Employment Services Manager at Unity Works, was awarded the Supported Employment Leader award at the BASE awards.

BASE stands for the British Association for Supported Employment and is an association with hundreds of organisations in it who work to secure employment with people who have disabilities. Their annual awards are an opportunity to celebrate incredible achievements, and exceptional people in their sector. Helen represents both.

Over the past year, Helen has worked with Royal Borough of Greenwich to develop a Council Community Facilitator role. Helen was able to negotiate this role to go to someone with lived experience of a learning disability and therefore expertise in the field. Helen also advised on the application process to make it as inclusive and accessible as possible.

Helen has also been instrumental in delivering our Supported Internships which offer an alternative to the narrow options for people with a learning disability to gain employment. Helen has supported in the development of the 3 DFN Project Search Supported Internships programmes Unity Works runs across London, including the first supported internships run in Royal Borough of Greenwich.

Helen’s expertise has been crucial in the development of Unity Work’s accessible apprentice programme. This programme sees individuals spend a year gaining paid work experience and receiving training bespoke to their needs from our range of accredited and non-accredited courses. She has worked with HR to ensure accessible recruitment formats and has widened the skills and accessibility of programmes for people with a learning disability to gain meaningful vocational experience and qualifications and without the requirements for functional skills level 2 – a level unobtainable for many of the people supported that provides paid workplace experience alongside attainment of a recognised qualification that has been praised by the DWP.

Helen has also worked with DWP and local authorities across London to raise the profile of developing inclusive recruitment practices as well as working towards closing the learning disability employment gap.

Helen’s work has not only been recognised by BASE, but by her own colleagues and peers. Jesamine Murray, Contracts Manager for Unity Works, said:

Helen is an inspirational leader and a dedicated champion and advocate for people with a learning disability. She has supported our employment team and contract managers to develop our ideas, build on our own unique strengths and creativity in our team to get the best outcomes for the people we support. In her development of our successful model, she has personally inspired me with her passion for advocacy, working to secure sponsorship and tenders for the funding for us to continue the work we do and open up opportunities for us to make a more inclusive world for people with a learning disability.

Etherline Joseph, Senior Employment Advisor at Unity Works, feels that the work Unity Works have done would not be possible without Helen’s involvement and leadership.

Without her at our helm across several projects, meetings and always approachable, we would not be able to have the reach and contacts with external contacts and so build great relationships to keep our clients in jobs or working on gaining the opportunities that we have. For example, Project Search organisations which are increasing from our original King’s College Hospital to many…. each now creating sustained paid employment and support.

Supported employment makes a huge difference in the lives of individuals with a learning disability, but also positively affects regional communities, and our national society. It allows people the opportunity to gain employment and show what they have to offer. The work that Unity Works do in this field is exceptional, and, under Helens leadership, their team of 11 have supported 297 people into 78 jobs over the past year.

The award was clearly well deserved.

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