It’s great that disabled people, disability charities and families were consulted for the Government’s Disability Action Plan, says Laura Davis, but why doesn’t it go further, and why isn’t employment a key action?

Working is good for us. A safe and secure job is one of the key indicators of improved health outcomes for the most marginalised members of our communities. If you consider that the employment rates of people with a learning disability or autism known to adult social care are down to 4.8%, why isn’t employment centre stage in the plan?

There is positive news, such as the Internships Work project, where £18 million has been invested over three years by the Department for Education to double the number of Supported Internships for 16-24 year-olds across England. This project supports local authorities in setting up or developing their SEND employment forums, providing training to support employers to host placements, training job coaches who support the young people and exploring how to assess the quality of Supported Internships.

This year, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is launching its flagship Universal Support programme, using the evidenced-based Supported Employment model. This model aims high, at finding a career, not just any job, and it supports disabled people into employment as well as those with long-term health conditions and people facing multiple barriers, while also meeting the needs of business across England and Wales.

What we need now is for the Government to join the dots, to ensure that all policies are high in ambition and the systems connect to ensure that everyone who wants to work, can. There is clear evidence that the Supported Employment model produces excellent outcomes, and this must be embedded into the heart of all provision and SENCO training. Every young person needs access to a range of employment study programs, including good quality work experience, Supported Internships, Inclusive Apprenticeships and supported employment. These pathways shouldn’t be conditional on an EHCP or a diagnosis but should be matched to the needs of the individual. The maths and English requirements need to be removed from Apprenticeships, opening this work-based pathway to so many more young people and enabling employers to access more of the talent they need. We need an Access to Work scheme that is easy to navigate and works to remove barriers. We should expect more of employers who sign up to Disability Confident, and they should have access to more support. It shouldn’t be a postcode lottery that determines whether young people with SEND can access good quality support.

Laura Davis
Author: Laura Davis

Laura Davis
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Laura Davis is Chief Executive Officer of the British Association for Supported Employment (BASE), which is the national umbrella group for the supported employment sector and has over 300 member organisations.

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