New €1.5 million Ability to Work Fund aims to reach 500 people with disabilities across Ireland

Social Innovation Fund Ireland and State Street join forces to empower more people with a disability to gain employment 

November 11th, 2019: Employers across Ireland were urged to “see ability not disability” and to create more opportunities in the workplace for people with visible and invisible disabilities at the launch of a new partnership between Social Innovation Fund Ireland (SIFI) and State Street.

The partnership will see the creation of the Ability to Work Fund which will provide €1.5 million funding over 3 years to organisations working to empower more people with a disability to gain employment. The Ability to Work Fund is also supported by the Department of Rural and Community Development through the Dormant Accounts Fund. 

SIFI and State Street hope that during the three years of the initiative, the fund will aim to reach 500 educationally-disadvantaged students across the country and empower 250 people to progress along pathways to employment. A disability might be a visible, physical or intellectual disability or it might be an invisible one such as a learning disability, traumatic brain injury or mental health condition. 

Launching the Ability to Work Fund, Regina Doherty T.D., Minister for Employment Affairs & Social Protection said, “The National Disability Inclusion Strategy contains a comprehensive employment strategy for people with disabilities, many of whom want to work but are faced with barriers and challenges – some of which are personal, but more of which are societal and demand a concerted effort by Government, Employers and Civic society to break them down.  The Ability to Work Fund is an important initiative which will help provide bridges and supports into work for people living with a disability and I congratulate Social Innovation Fund Ireland and State Street for their vision in its establishment”.

Minister Doherty added that “within the public sector we are looking to double the number of people with a disability employed by 2024 and we are looking at alternative recruitment channels for people with disabilities”.  

Minister of State for Community Development, Natural Resources and Digital Development, Seán Canney TD said “The Ability to Work Fund  is yet another example of the Dormant Accounts Fund being put to good use and of partnership between Government and the private sector, in this case State Street, to assist potential employers and people with disabilities break down barriers to an inclusive and more diverse workforce.”

Tadhg Young, Ireland Country Head at State Street said:  “Embracing diversity is the right thing to do, but it means little without a strong commitment to inclusion. At State Street we have long believed in the power of inclusion in the workforce and have a broad suite of initiatives in place to recognise and acknowledge what makes people unique, but to also ensure we include all employees at all levels of the organization.

“We are proud to partner with SIFI on the launch of the Ability to Work Fund to help move economically disadvantaged populations forward and promote equality of opportunity in education and sustainable employment for everyone in society. By focusing on organisations that specially support those with visible or invisible disabilities, through training, upskilling, education and other services, Ability to Work will support and empower people with disabilities to progress into employment.” 

Deirdre Mortell, CEO, Social Innovation Fund Ireland said:  “We know from the last census that nearly 10% of people living in Ireland identified as living with a disability.  We also know that people with disabilities are half as likely to be in employment as others of working age. That is creating significant inequality in our society.  At SIFI we believe in the power of social innovation to deliver solutions to this challenge. The Ability to Work Fund will help create pathways to employment where people with disabilities can achieve economic independence, contribute to their communities and experience personal fulfilment.  

“It is encouraging that more and more employers are recognising the contribution people living with a disability can make to their organisation and are actively seeking to create employment for this group.  Through the Ability to Work Fund we hope to give more people with a disability the confidence to pursue employment and to ensure that people with disabilities are not left behind in the current era of near full employment.”

The Ability to Work Fund is now open for applications until February 2020Successful applicants will receive cash grants as well as a place on an Accelerator Programme which includes bespoke training from best-in-class experts across the private, non-profit and public sector. The Fund is designed specifically to equip charities and social enterprises to expand their business acumen, drive growth and deepen their impact across Ireland.  SIFI and State Street believe that this Fund can also contribute to global change and Awardees’ impact will be measured against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.