Educating employers is key to getting more people with a learning disability into work.
Experiencing the pride, independence and freedom that comes from having a paid job is something that many people take for granted. For young people with a learning disability, the process of getting into work can be an endless stream of rejections, despite having the desire and ability to succeed if given the right support.
Currently, just 5.8 per cent of people with a learning disability known to social services are in paid work. This figure has actually decreased since 2011, despite a manifesto commitment by the Government to get a million more disabled people into work.
Having a job means that people with a learning disability can live independently, live how they choose, feel valued and feel they have a purpose – just like anyone else in society.
There is still a lack of understanding of what a learning disability is and what people with a learning disability can do. With the right support, and the right role, people with a learning disability can be valued and trusted employees.
Unfortunately, many employers still have misconceptions about what people with a learning disability can do. For example, they think that people with a learning disability can’t work, or that it will cost money and time to employ them. Sadly, employers often see the disability before the person. These attitudes need to change.
The fact is, people with a learning disability are incredibly loyal, meaning that they stay in their jobs longer and they take fewer sick days. This improves staff morale and opens up the company to a wealth of knowledge towards disabled consumers. Research last year found that over half of the public said they would prefer to work for a company which employs people with a learning disability.
What we need to see is a focus on educating employers. If employers are more confident in their understanding of disability, they are more likely to offer reasonable adjustments to help provide opportunities.
People with a learning disability can be successful at work, if they are given the right support and are placed in the right roles. Like anyone else, they have different experience, different interests and different skills, so the job they are suited to will differ too.
The process of looking for work is often when the barriers begin to appear. Job websites can be confusing, application forms use inaccessible language and travelling to interviews can be incredibly difficult. Interviews can also be inaccessible, as the tasks that are often set can be difficult to understand.
With the right support, though, people with a learning disability can overcome these barriers. They need help building their skills, looking for work, with interview preparation, and with training through work experience.
Employers also need to be supported to offer the right opportunities and provide reasonable adjustments within the workplace. Employers often report on the positive impact on their business from having someone with a learning disability as part of their team and how, with a little effort, they have made their workplaces inclusive and accessible to people with a learning disability.
Mark Capper is Head of Employment at learning disability charity Mencap: