History of Breakthrough UK

Breakthrough practices what it preaches. From our origins in 1997, led by disabled people, we continue today to provide evidence that removing disability-related barriers to the workplace, disabled people can enjoy a level playing field in employment opportunities. We remain at the forefront of the battle for disability rights.

Our history:

  • Manchester City Council (MCC) promises to work with local disabled people to ensure that disabled people in the city can find real jobs.
  • Early 1990s: The result of disabled people’s discussions with MCC is a three pronged plan for Manchester:
    1. An employment scheme called Options to find work for disabled people (paid and unpaid).
    2. A training scheme called Hexagon to give disabled people work-related skills.
    3. The setting up of a new company (NEWCO) – controlled by disabled people and independent of the council – to run these two schemes.
  • Lorraine Gradwell is asked by MCC in 1995 to set up the new company (NEWCO).
  • While NEWCO is being developed, Options and Hexagon are run by Manchester Social Services Department.
  • NEWCO eventually becomes Breakthrough UK Ltd.
  • Breakthrough UK Ltd is officially established as a company on 15th December 1997. Breakthrough’s Board, chaired by Kevin Hyett, invites Lorraine Gradwell to become its Chief Executive. Board members include representatives from Manchester City Council, Manchester Deaf Centre and activists such as Angela Madeley.
  • Breakthrough begins delivering employment and training services independently on 1st July 1998.
  • Since then, we have provided sustained, one to one support to over 5,000 disabled people in Manchester alone around employment and independent living – in addition to the very large number of local businesses and public organisations we have provided consultancy, training and policy advice to on the effective removal of disabling barriers.
  • Lorraine Gradwell retires in 2012 and Michele Scattergood takes over as Chief Executive.

Key Breakthrough projects working with individual disabled people include:

  • January 1998: Careerships Progreamme, funded by the Manchester TEC.
  • July 1998: Training and Employment support, funded by Manchester City Council.
  • Autumn 1999: Trailblazers offers companies the opportunity to work with Breakthrough to recognise and remove barriers within their organisation for disabled staff.
  • March 2002: Our Liverpool Office opens, offering employment support to disabled people.
  • 2003: We secure funding from the Community Fund to run an Independent Employment Advocacy and Information Project for disabled people. The project runs until 2010.
  • January 2005: We run a Volunteer and Peer Mentoring Project for disabled people across Greater Manchester.
  • 2008: We are commissioned by Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive (GMPTE) to involve disabled people in the planned expansion of the Metrolink.
  • 2010: The Working It Through Together (WITT) project supports victims of disability hate crime across Greater Manchester.
  • 1st April 2011: Centre for Independent Living (CIL) opens to support the ‘Right to Control’ in Manchester, Stockport, Trafford, Bury and Oldham.
  • September 2012: The Right to Control Employment Pilot begins, including a specific service led by and for Deaf people.
  • 2015: Breakthrough becomes part of the Big Lottery-funded Greater Manchester Talent Match programme.
  • August 2015: We start delivering our Pathways training programme.
  • 2016: Our first Community Connector project, in Hulme. In 2017: it extends into the rest of Manchester as ‘Let’s have a Good Week’.
  • 2017: Journey 2 Employment (J2E) launches, aimed at supporting people into employment by cultivating confidence and developing independent living and pre-employment skills.

Many things have improved for disabled people in the last 20 years, even though there is still a way to go. For example, fewer disabled people live in institutional care and routes into work are open to all disabled people, regardless of having spent time in care settings.

Many employers have started to recognise that removing disability related barriers costs very little but brings a wealth of marketplace advantage in having a truly diverse workforce.

Disabled people are still unable to participate fully in many areas of society and we are working hard to address this. For example, there remains a 31% gap between the employment rates of disabled and non-disabled people. Successive governments have not been able to fully realise the potential for creating the right support for disabled people not in work. Significant inaccessible public transport infrastructures, educational and housing provisions remain slow to progress towards full inclusion – all limiting work choices for disabled people – and ultimately affecting the ability for employers and the economy to flourish.

There remains a significant risk with Brexit for employers and the economy if these issues are not resolved.

We use our invaluable lived experience to improve organisations, policy makers and individuals choices, towards creating a more equal society. Behind the scenes we regularly work with local, regional and national groups such as:

  • Academic institutions including Abraham Moss Schools, Manchester University, Manchester Metropolitan University, Leeds University, Liverpool University.
  • Central Manchester Foundation Trust Equalities Advisory Group
  • Disabled people’s organisations in the city, across the region and nationally.
  • Equality and Human Rights Commission
  • Greater Manchester Devolution Voluntary and Community Sector Reference Group
  • Manchester ‘Learning Disability Priority Work Stream’
  • National Independent Living Sub Group
  • North West Network of Disabled People’s Organisations
  • Our Manchester Design and Delivery Group
  • Our Manchester Disability Plan Partnership Board, Engagement Group and Employment Workstream
  • Our Manchester Forum
  • Manchester Health and Care Commissioning
  • Parliamentarians, local and national elected members
  • Trade unions, TUC

Latest News

Impact Review

Read more about the things we do at Breakthrough UK – the differences we make and the positive things we do for disabled people in Greater Manchester. Read More >

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