How can we tackle low levels of employment for those with learning disabilities?

learning-disability-employment

Learning Disability Week in June put the spotlight on low levels of employment for those with learning disabilities. Mencap’s Mark Capper explains how an initiative with PageGroup could offer a new approach to getting more people with learning disabilities into work.

Many employers will, like the public, feel awkward and unsure when confronted with learning disability. We can understand this – often, what we don’t know can be hard to interact with.

However, at Mencap we have worked with hundreds of employers and thousands of people with a learning disability looking for work.

The barriers for people with a learning disability to find paid work are huge, but for employers there are significant benefits to those that think differently about who they employ.

The latest figures show that there are less than 6% of people with a learning disability known to social services in work. We recently highlighted how employers can use apprenticeships to increase employment levels for those with a learning disability.

That figure is woeful, and when combined with the fact that it is actually a decrease, it shows just how bleak the situation is for someone with a learning disability looking for work.

That’s why Mencap has partnered with ENABLE Scotland and worldwide recruiters PageGroup to offer a new approach to getting more people with a learning disability in work.

Through our own employment programmes, Mencap works with thousands of people with a learning disability who want to find work, every year.

Confidence and independence

We’ve been successful in placing people with a learning disability into some fantastic jobs, including at Kew Gardens and Legoland.

The people with a learning disability we work with tell us how much their new job has helped them build confidence, become more independent, and has given them a sense of self-worth. Employers tell us how much value people with a learning disability have brought to their company.

Sadly, despite this, many employers are reluctant to take on people with a learning disability. That’s why our partnership with PageGroup feels so important.

PageGroup works with thousands of employers every day. We hope that by introducing their pool of contacts to the widely overlooked talented workforce that is people with a learning disability, more of them will have the opportunity to experience the pride and self-worth that having a job brings.

People with a learning disability tell us they want to work, to contribute to society, to earn their own money. But one of the biggest barriers preventing them from finding work continues to be negative attitudes.

“Learning disability” is a phrase that many employers, and members of the public, regard with fear. Lack of understanding of what a learning disability is, means that rather than engage, employers instead shy away from the “risk” of taking on someone with a learning disability without considering how beneficial it could be for their company.

Better retention

As part of Learning Disability Week earlier this month, we commissioned a research review that proves what we’ve been communicating to employers for many years – that staff with a learning disability can lower recruitment costs by staying in jobs longer and having fewer sick days. Employees report improved staff morale and there are significant reputational benefits from a public that would prefer to give their business to companies employing disabled staff.

One of the key aspects of our partnership with PageGroup is the opportunity it gives people with a learning disability to benefit from the expertise of their recruitment consultants.

We have already hosted skills-sharing workshops where recruitment consultants worked with people with a learning disability to provide one-on-one CV writing and interview skills.

One candidate was preparing for an interview the next day and said the session helped him with a huge boost of confidence – something he’d struggled with before.

We will also work with PageGroup to raise awareness among their network of contacts about the need to make the application and recruitment process much more accessible.

Our work is all based around breaking down barriers so that people with a learning disability are given the opportunities they need to show their skills and get employers to understand how having an employee with a learning disability is not the risk that many believe it to be.

For people with a learning disability, having a job goes much further than being able to earn money. It means the chance to be a valued part of a society that all too often excludes them. It means the chance to move away from a life of isolation and living on benefits, to meet new people, make friends, learn new skills and be a valued part of a team.

This is something that everyone should be able to enjoy. But instead, there are a number of barriers stopping so many people with a learning disability from having this opportunity.

Mencap, ENABLE Scotland and PageGroup are determined to improve opportunities for people with a learning disability and ensure that employers throughout the UK know about the pool of talent ready and waiting to work.

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