A PARTNERSHIP aimed at supporting disabled and neurodivergent people into employment has been hailed a success as it nears the end of its three-year programme.

DiversityNE, funded by the North of Tyne Combined Authority and European Social Fund, has been delivered by the North East Autism Society (NEAS) and Azure Charitable Enterprises.

The employability scheme, launched in the summer of 2021, is aimed at people with disabilities – primarily learning disabilities – and neurodivergent people.

The primary aim was to help people into work, while also supporting routes into education and training, and giving others the confidence to search for jobs.

The funding comes to an end on December 31, and figures show that the initiative has exceeded all targets.

(Above: Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Mayor, with some of the DiversityNE participants)

Tracey Summerbell, Employment Services Manager for Azure Charitable Enterprises, said: “We’re thrilled to have worked on such an important scheme with a partner like the North East Autism Society.

“This was an opportunity for us to do something different because we haven’t worked in partnership before, and it has proved to be the perfect match.

We’re so proud of what’s been achieved because we’ve exceeded every target, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

The initial target was to support 233 clients, but the actual figure is 278. That includes 45 unemployed people becoming employed, and 55 being placed in education and training. In addition, out of 52 previously economically inactive people, 21 have gained employment and 31 have been given the skills and confidence to actively look for work.

The partnership was forged after Tracey met Derek Groves, Employment Services Manager for the Employment Futures department at NEAS, at a funding event. Following further discussions, it was agreed to propose a joint initiative across three areas within the combined authority: Northumberland, Newcastle, and North Tyneside.

Derek said: “We immediately felt that the two organisations shared the same values and aspirations, and the figures speak for themselves.

The partnership has been a clear success, and the difference it has made makes it all worthwhile.

The success of DiversityNE has inspired the launch of a second partnership between NEAS and Azure Charitable Enterprises, which are both members of the British Association for Supported Employment.

They will now work together on ProgressNE, a programme focused exclusively on economically inactive clients. Funded by the government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund until March 2025, with NTCA as the lead authority, it was given a soft launch in October and will pick up pace in the new year.

ProgressNE will have a broader scope than DiversityNE by supporting people towards employment, education, training, and volunteering, while also helping them to access community activities. Support will also be given with benefits and health and wellbeing.

Find out more about ProgressNE