Government must tailor programmes to help people with learning disabilities and mental health problems get into work

Thousands of disabled people could be assisted into work if the government introduced programmes tailored to the needs of people with learning disabilities and mental health problems, research has shown.

Almost 40% of the 2.7 million people claiming incapacity benefit have some form of mental health condition. It is estimated that 700,000 people of working age in England have mild to moderate learning disabilities.

Less than 20% of the two groups are in employment, compared with 50% for all disabled people and more than 80% for the whole population.

A taskforce comprising disability and employment services organisations aims to find new ways of helping into employment people who face the most complex barriers to work.

The taskforce has produced a four-point plan:

  1. For people with learning disabilities: a long-term programme of in-work support, including regular workplace visits by trained staff to offer training, development work and assistance, as well as advice on the wider aspects of daily lives.

  2. For people with mental health problems, especially those whose conditions fluctuate: specialist and prompt support for individuals and employers as the need arises, including ‘buddying’.

  3. A campaign to build confidence among employers emphasising that employing people with learning disabilities and mental health problems makes good business sense.

  4. Provision of specialist support for employers to help them retain employees who develop a mental health problem.

Bob Warner, chief executive of Remploy, said: “We want employers to recruit more people from these groups and the recommendations of the taskforce are a big step in the right direction.

“But employers will only do so when they are confident that they will get the support that they need in resolving employees’ problems, which may be minor or embarrassing, including issues like transport needs, dealing with fellow employees’ requests or personal hygiene.”

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