Use apprenticeships to increase employment for those with learning disabilities, says charity

Occupational health can play a key role in supporting people with learning disabilities to secure and stay in employment Photofusion/REX/Shutterstock

Mencap is urging employers to use apprenticeships to increase levels of employment for people with learning disabilities.

The learning disability charity cites recent figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre that show that less than 6% of adults with a known learning disability are in paid employment.

It says that people with a learning disability face a number of barriers when trying to find work, such as complicated application forms, negative attitudes from employers and regimented interview processes.

Once they are in work, employees with learning disabilities often face a lack of on-the-job training and further recruitment opportunities, Mencap says.

The Government announced last year that it would reduce the minimum required standards in Maths and English for people with a learning disability who wish to pursue certain apprenticeships.

It was acting on recommendations from Paul Maynard’s 2016 taskforce, which looked at the issues facing those with learning disabilities when accessing apprenticeships.

Mencap says that “by ensuring people with a learning disability are able to access apprenticeships, it will provide a route into work better suited to people with a learning disability where they can demonstrate their skills”.

In 2014/15, less than 1% of apprentices declared a moderate learning disability, according to Government data.

Jan Tregelles, chief executive of Mencap, said: “The introduction of these plans are a welcome recognition from Government that people with a learning disability cannot be left behind when accessing such a vital and valuable route into work as an apprenticeship.

“Lowering the Maths and English requirement for people with a learning disability on apprenticeships could allow a whole new generation to experience the pride, joy and independence that employment can offer – something that just 5.8% of people with a learning disability currently do.”

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, David Gauke, added: “People with a learning disability deserve the same opportunities that others have in every aspect of their lives, including in the workplace. Almost 600,000 disabled people have entered work in the last three years, and we must build on this progress.”

This week is Learning Disability Week, which Gauke says is a “chance to celebrate people for their talent and potential” and for apprenticeships to offer more of those with learning disabilities “a valuable route into employment”.

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