WorkAble (EDI4)

Category: Employers Provision: Specialist FEdefinition College Region: South West



NSC Postcard image.

The aim of the National Star College’s WorkAble project, funded by the Skills Funding Agency, was to address barriers faced by people with disabilities who wish to work, train in the workplace or carry out work experience by supporting employers to become disability confident.

We achieved this by developing the WorkAble website and training of a team of our former learners, all physically disabled young people, to carry out workplace audits. The website contained information, case studies and a self-assessment tool for companies to use prior to an audit. 

The audits established the disability confidence of an employer, identifying their strengths and exploring areas for further support and training. The audit considered the organisational structure, the disability awareness of management staff, the physical space and access to the workplace. Employers who showed they had met the established criteria, were awarded a WorkAble plaque, a press release would be organised and a case study uploaded to the website.


Research and the College’s employability team, identified that disabled people can and do gain employment.  However, this employment often failed and a reason frequently given by the disabled worker was that they experienced feelings of isolation.

The Papworth Trust identified one reason for the low employment rate of disabled people. They found that 1 in 6 workers who become disabled while in work subsequently lose their employment in the first year after becoming disabled. They suggested this could be due to communication difficulties with co-workers, lack of access to social spaces or a general lack of awareness by employers and co-workers of their particular needs.

Employers stated that they would like more training and practical support to enable them to employ disabled people more readily. They realised that there was untapped potential with a trained and willing workforce, so were welcoming support to overcome barriers.

The project supported the employer to understand that by becoming more disability confident, employing disabled people and making their services accessible, they were not only behaving with social conscience but they were also creating opportunities for disabled people to become viable active members of society who could contribute to the UK economy. 

A disabled person in employment becomes less reliant on the benefit system and in some cases social care.  Employmentdefinition is a factor in preventing depression and promoting inclusion. A disabled person is less likely to make demands on the public health service if their susceptibility to mental health difficulties is reduced. The WorkAble project, by supporting employers to feel confident when employing disabled people, hoped to benefit people with disabilities, employers, the wider community and the UK economy.


We selected five former learners from our college, all with physical disabilities and wheelchair users, to become the Audit Team. They were involved in all aspects of the project from the planning stage onwards. 

We developed an online audit tool for employers to self-assess their disability confidence.

We created the WorkAble website, providing information, case studies and access to the self-assessment audit tool.

We trained our Audit Team so that they were confident to undertake audits at the employers’ premises.

The Audit Team delivered audits, wrote up case studies and attended plaque award ceremonies.

The Audit Team attended awareness raising events and business breakfasts to engage with businesses and highlight WorkAble.

We worked in partnership with Gloucestershire County Council, the Learning Disabilities Partnership Board, PLUSS Work Choices, BASE and local firms to facilitate access to companies and to establish protocols for working with employers.

Changes in Practice

As a result we started to offer and undertake WorkAble employer disability confidence audits, and attend Employer Forums and events.

Advice to other Providers

Any provider supporting people with disabilities into employment can replicate the WorkAble project. This model can be used to encourage disability confidence with any employer. If you are providing employment skills to your learners, you cannot omit working with employers.

Transport and personal care needs are sometimes difficult to arrange for a disabled person, so this has been an area of particular consideration during the course of the project.

National Star College would support other organisations wishing to set up their own social enterprises.


We created a quality standard for employers who demonstrate disability confidence in supporting people with disabilities in work.

We had a trained WorkAble Audit Team, comprising of four former College students, all with physical disabilities. We actually trained 5 students but one has since returned home, leaving the area.

We had successfully completed three audits at the time of writing the report, with two more scheduled.

We created the WorkAble website.  The website incorporated a self-assessment tool for employers, case studies and an outline of the service.

We disseminated the project in a number of ways including the publication of an article in Gloucestershire Life which has a county wide readership. We had local press and BBC radio coverage at the opening of Gloucestershire Railway Station and the subsequent awarding of a WorkAble plaque to First Great Western.

Next Steps

When the project ended, it was proposed that:

The WorkAble Audit Team would continue to work from the National Star College site and the current Project Manager would remain working with the team, setting up audits and supporting the monitoring of the website.

The audit team was to be developed into a social enterprise to provide long term part time paid employment for three of the existing team. They would be employed for a number of hours per month to carry out audits, write up reports, upload to the website and work with employers.  Careful consideration was given to ensure that any employment would not have a detrimental affect on their benefits. 

We would continue to work with our partners including Job Centre Plus and to attend employment forums. Mechanisms would be put in place to establish whether employment opportunities for disabled people locally were enhanced through the audits and the support of the WorkAble social enterprise. 

A stand and workshop was scheduled for the BASE annual conference in September 2013.


For more information contact Jane Griffiths, the project manager, at

Email :

Telephone: 01242 527631