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The Supported Business Alliance unveils the potential of Supported Business at the BASE 2014 conference.

CLARITY is a founding member of the Supported Business Alliance and in September 2014, attended the annual BASE 2014 conference in Leicester with other founding members to demonstrate the value of Supported Businesses within the wider supported employment sector.

The Alliance hosted an interactive workshop for delegates at the conference, the UK’s largest conference for disability employment, and was pleased to have to bring in more chairs to accommodate the large number of people wanting to attend the session.

The workshop opened with a reflection on the term ‘innovation’ and what it meant to the group and with this notion in mind, the workshop introduced the context in which Supported Businesses have evolved over the past few years. Although protected place funding for disabled employees at Supported Businesses has not changed for over 10 years, the Alliance highlighted how there was a preference amongst policy makers for a ‘menu of disability employment support’, as outlined in the controversial Sayce report Getting In, staying in and getting on.

Questions from the audience came thick and fast as the Alliance moved on to discuss the use of the Intermediary Labour Market (ILM) employment model within Supported Businesses. The ILM model enables disabled people to enter a Supported Business on a short term contract through the Work Choice programme, allowing the person to gain valuable work experience in a commercial environment and develop their career aspirations with support from the business and Prime Providers who facilitate the Work Choice contracts with businesses on the ground. Lots of delegates were keen to learn more about the governance of Supported Businesses and how the ILM model is implemented and managed on the front line.

The members of the Alliance outlined the reasons for forming the group and shared with delegates their vision for the group’s future. They were keen to hear from attendees about suggestions for future activity and the obstacles and opportunities that could help and hinder the Alliance.

Looking north, the Alliance demonstrated how the Scottish government has been working with Scottish Supported Businesses very closely, awarding procurement contracts to these businesses and in turn, supporting the employment of disabled people across Scotland. Alistair Kerr, a long term advocate of Supported Businesses from Momentum Skills UK¸ discussed in more depth the Scottish experience of working with the Scottish Government and conveyed a healthy partnership model that we could adopt in England and Wales.

During the two day conference, the Alliance also exhibited a stall to reach out to all conference delegates and engaged with everyone from DWP members through to frontline support workers.

Looking to the future, the Alliance is now working towards a Supported Business showcase event for November 2014 and will be working together to submit a second paper to DWP to champion procurement opportunities between government and Supported Businesses.

If you would like to find out more about the Supported Business Alliance or become a member, please do get in touch with the group here or visit www.discoverthepotential.org

The Supported Business Alliance is a “collective voice” of supported businesses in the UK and is supported by BASE.