Unemployment amongst people with a learning disability is extremely high. Just 7% of people with a learning disability are in paid employment and the work is often poorly paid, excluded from opportunities for promotion and in jobs that don’t match individual’s skills or support their needs.
The challenge to overcome is a huge one and why Mencap and Inclusive Employers started Learning Disability Work Experience Week. Amongst the many barriers that contribute to such low employment levels such as lack of in-work support, employer attitudes and inaccessible recruitment practices, is the lack of work experience opportunities if you have a learning disability.
Experience is one of the first thing employers look for on a CV and if you don’t have it then getting employment can feel impossible. Now in its third year Learning Disability Work Experience Week has over 60 employers offering placements this week to people with a learning disability. What’s more is that the placements have led to permanent positions for some of the individuals involved.
One of the biggest challenges to overcome, and this is more a societal issue than aimed at employers, is assumptions about what people with a learning disability are capable of. People with a mild or moderate learning disability have the desire and capability to work, and with the right support can become valued and trusted employees.
To help understand the barrier of employer attitudes this year we ran a survey of UK employers. The findings were encouraging. Almost 80% agreed that having disabled employees helps a company understand its disabled customers better, presenting a huge commercial benefit whilst 72% believed people with a learning disability are able to work in their companies.
The survey did also show an acknowledgement of the work that lies ahead; 46% of employers acknowledged their recruitment process is not accessible. The survey also exposes the nervousness some employers have when it comes to learning disability, but also how these nerves disappear for those that have employed staff with a learning disability.
The employment of people with a disability will be in the spotlight more than ever before with the Government’s commitment to halve the disability employment gap. We hope that the success of Learning Disability Work Experience Week and the positive feedback from employers will help overcome the barriers that exist, so that people with a learning disability can experience the freedom, independence and pride that comes from being employed.
Business Development Manager/Head of Employer Engagement