Conference to help people with additional support needs get into work

A conference focused on addressing employment opportunities for young people with additional support needs in the South of Scotland will be hosted by the Additional Support Needs (ASN) Learning Network on Friday September 8.

The South of Scotland is home to more than 5,000 young people with additional support needs, and research shows that school leavers and young adults in this group have extremely low opportunities in the job market, with national employment rates between 4-8%.

Funded by South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE) and facilitated by Inspiring Scotland, the ASN Learning Network was founded in 2021 after ideas emerged from local organisations The Usual Place of Dumfries and Borders Additional Needs Group (BANG) in the Scottish Borders, on how to create meaningful change for people with additional support needs in the South of Scotland through employment.

The interactive online conference will showcase where gaps are in service provision and provide insight on people’s experience of accessing employment, aiming to influence the redesign of employment support in the area.

Oliver Mundell MSP for Dumfriesshire and Chirsty McFadyen, Knowledge Exchange Associate from the Fraser of Allander Institute will deliver keynote speeches, alongside workshops and Q&A delivered by those with lived experience.

Sally Cavers, Fund Manager at Inspiring Scotland said, “Economic inclusion of people with additional support needs helps individuals and communities to thrive. We know through our work at Inspiring Scotland, the third sector can be a vital partner to employers and individuals providing support and guidance to ensure success.

“We want to make sure the learning from the ASN Learning Network is used to support the vision of the regional economic strategy and maximise investment into the South of Scotland, making it an inclusive region for all.

“We welcome anyone with an interest in additional support needs and employment to attend the conference on Friday 8 September. Perhaps you are a staff member or volunteer in the charity or public sector, or a private sector employee. You could be someone in the region with an additional support need, or a parent or carer. The key is that you want support in positive change in the South of Scotland for this group of people.”

The ASN Learning Network pilot is due to finish in October. It is hoped the conference will help create a legacy for further work to continue.

Jane Morrison-Ross, Chief Executive of South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE) said, “One of the six key priorities in SOSE’s Five Year Plan is our commitment to Fair Work and Equality. 

“As part of this commitment, we want to work with the Third Sector to support their ability to deliver vital employability support to groups such as young people with additional support needs, which is why we supported the creation of the South of Scotland ASN Learning Network in 2021.

“The culmination of this two-year pilot is the ASN Learning Network Conference, which is an excellent opportunity to reflect on what has been learned in the last two years as well as look ahead and discuss how partners across the South can work together to better support young people with additional support needs to find rewarding employment.”

Heather Hall, CEO at The Usual Place said, “The South of Scotland is home to many gifted, talented young people with additional support needs, who are looking to get a good job with a decent income. To take their place as full and equal citizens’ young disabled people want to have opportunities to build on their strengths and to develop the skills that employers across South of Scotland are looking for.

“We know that local employers are looking for employees to fill vacancies and are more aware of talented disabled young people seeking employment. These employers are progressively more open to developing their, ‘Employer-Ability’, skills in attracting and retaining a more diverse workforce.

“This conference is an opportunity to bring people together who want to see the South of Scotland lead the way in changing the current poverty of opportunity and ambition along with low employment rates for disabled young people in Scotland.”

Pauline Grigor CEO Borders Additional Needs Group (BANG) said, “I welcome support from both SOSE and Inspiring Scotland to enable us to highlight the significant importance of meaningful change when addressing employment opportunities for young people with additional support needs.

“What drives change is a willingness to think ‘outside the box’, adopt reflective practice and person-centered whole family approach. We must value the contribution that a diverse workforce can bring to local economic growth across the South of Scotland and value trusted relationship our vast third sector brings to a cultural shift in our approach to positive destinations and employability.” 

Tickets are free for the event and can be reserved at