I propose to take Questions Nos. 137 and 138 together.
The number of active participants being catered for through the supported employment programme provided under the Employ Ability Service at end 2011 was 2,903 and at end-2012 the equivalent number was 2,762. There has not been a formal review of the Employ Ability Service since it was transferred from FAS into the Department. The Employ Ability Service continues to represent a key element of the activation supports provided by the Department to enable and support people with disabilities to engage in the open labour market.
The aim of the service is to facilitate the integration of people with disabilities into paid employment in the open labour market; to provide support to assist with this integration process; and to help meet the labour requirements of employers. It does so by providing a job-coaching service with clients, including undertaking an Employment Needs Assessment with the jobseeker; identifying the type of employment the job seeker wishes to pursue; developing an Individual Employment Plan; match the participant with suitable employment opportunities; providing any necessary support and coaching in the workplace.
The Employ Ability Service will also work with employers to encourage them to avail of a range of other supports targeted at employers to encourage greater recruitment and retention of people with disabilities. These include in particular the Wage Subsidy Scheme, the Workplace Adaptation Grant and the Employee Retentions Grants Scheme as well as the Job Interview Interpreter Grant and the Personal Reader Grant.
The Wage Subsidy Scheme offers a financial subsidy to employers in the private sector to encourage them to employ people with disabilities. At end June 2013, there were some 1,246 beneficiaries of the scheme. Expenditure on the scheme amounted to some €10.065 m. in 2011 and €10.566m. in 2012.
The Workplace Adaptation Grant scheme is designed to encourage the retention of an employee with a disability by providing funding, up to a current limit of €6,350, towards the additional costs of adapting workplace equipment or the provision of equipment arising from the individual’s disability. Applications in excess of this sum can be considered on an individual basis up to a maximum of €9,523 if specialist training for assistive technology is required.
The Employee Retention Grant Scheme provides financial assistance to private sector employers to encourage them to retain employees who acquire an illness, condition or impairment which impacts on their ability to carry out their job. It does so by providing funding to either identify accommodation and/or training to enable the staff member to remain in his/her current position, or to re-train the staff member so that he/she can take up a different position within the organisation. Maximum grants of up to €15,000 are available under this scheme.