So, what is supported employment?

Basically, supported employment is a way of helping disabled people find and keep jobs. Supported employment businesses has been in existence for over 150 years but really took off after World War II to assist those who had disabilities and had been affected by the war get fair employment. Several factories were set up to carry out government contracts making furniture for offices and hospitals. 

Now, supported businesses are commonly called ‘social enterprises’ whose main aim is to integrate disabled or disadvantaged people – socially and professionally. Their workforce must be at least 30% disabled or disadvantaged, as specified in EU Directive 2014/24/EU.

Highland BlindCraft is proud to be one of the path leaders in supported employment – established over 150 years ago we provide employment for blind people and people with disabilities from the local, surrounding areas and Highland wide area.

Currently, over 86% of our workforce has a disability, which includes those who are registered blind, partially sighted, deaf or have learning difficulties/mental health issues. We believe that sight loss or any other disabilities shouldn’t get in the way of providing good employment and being given the same chances, rights and conditions as able-bodied people in the workplace. And, we’re glad we are not the only ones who see it that way.

The supported employment programme remained unchanged up until 2002 when it was decided that the concept of factories employing disabled people was not the way forward for all people with a disability and that with social inclusion, people should be integrated into an environment working alongside able-bodied colleagues.

One of our aims is to progress people with a disability into mainstream employment after the appropriate training and skills have been learned. Highland BlindCraft is at the forefront of supported employment offering opportunities in our factory for people who have long and enduring disability employment issues – for a sustained period of time as well as offering people who wish to build on their skills and confidence enabling them to progress on to open employment.

There are at least 10 supported businesses in Scotland who provide sustainable employment for more than 500 employees and training opportunities for a further 400 people a year.

The fact that many private sector customers choose to support and buy goods and services from supported businesses confirms their competitiveness, quality and, above all, a culture of supporting local businesses and receiving good customer service.