In an effort to increase awareness, the agency that promotes employment for people with disabilities across the region chose the occasion of the release of its 10th annual report in Athlone this week (October 14 ) to re-brand itself as EmployAbility Midlands.
Formerly known as MESA (the Midland Employment Support Agency ), EmployAbility has been responsible for placing over 600 people in paid work amongst 527 employers across the Midlands in the last 10 years, according to project co-ordinator Tony Reilly.
In 2001 the agency began with fewer than one person a week (48 ) availing of its services, with 19 of these achieving paid placements. Last year this grew to see 80 people employed from the 242 people who sought assistance, according to Mr Reilly.
He believed the success of their supported employment service is down to the onsite support that the local employment officer can provide with induction and training of each individual.
Keynote speaker and Olympic hopeful Mark Rohan from Ballinahown, spoke of his employment history, returning to further training, and how grateful he was of the help and assistance made available to him.
“The ESB said they’d support me, and having that sort of support gives great confidence,” he said, before speaking highly of all the assistance available to him.
Other speakers included Golden Island employee Noel Curtis, employer Keith Nolan of KK Print, Kevin Gardiner from HSE and Kevin Macken from FAS.
It is estimated that between one in 10 and one in eight people in Ireland are living with a disability and yet three quarters of these of working age are unemployed.
EmployAbility Midlands, which has offices in Athlone and Mullingar, as well as in Longford, Offaly, and Laois, assesses applicants’ skills and abilities and can offer a wage subsidy scheme of €5.30 per hour to employers for a minimum of 21 hours work a week.
EmployAbility Midlands is one of 23 service providers who deliver the FAS-funded, supported employment for over 4,500 people nationally, and chose the new name to conjure up a positive image of disability and link the idea of employment and people’s abilities.