To mark the week, Seetec Pluss, part of the employee owned Seetec Group, is highlighting the wealth of skills and talents that people with a learning disability can bring to the workplace.
Hayley Smith, 37, from Plymouth, said getting a job after struggling to find employment for several years, even before the first Covid-19 lockdown, has given her life a new sense of purpose.
Hayley, who was born with fluid on the brain and has both physical and learning difficulties, had previously worked in retail and childcare, but had been struggling to secure a job. She said, “I was keen to work, but once employers knew about my disability they didn’t want to know. I was feeling quite let down.”
Through the Work and Health Programme, funded by the Department for Work and Pensions and European Social Fund, she was referred to employment and health specialist Seetec Pluss. Seetec Pluss help thousands of people each year to build their confidence, develop new skills and find work.
“My Work and Health programme Employment Advisor, Abbie Lewis, gave me such fantastic support. We worked on my CV together, and she sent it out to so many job vacancies. Before I knew it, I got a job cleaning at my local Jobcentre and now work there for five days a week”, Hayley explained.
“I went back to live with my family during the COVID lockdowns, but now I’m back to living by myself. I feel fantastic to be employed again, to be honest it has saved my life, otherwise I’d have been stuck within my four walls.”
According to support organisation Mencap, around 1.5 million people in the UK have a learning disability, and they are up to twice as likely to experience mental health difficulties as people without learning disabilities. ONS figures show that only around one quarter of people in the UK with a learning disability (26.5%) are in any form of employment.
Neil Cattle, an Employment Contract Manager at Seetec Pluss, said there needs to be a greater focus on employment options for people with learning disabilities throughout their education. Providing guidance and support about future employment routes could be incorporated into an individual’s Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan.
Seetec Pluss believes that with the right support, there is a job out there for everyone and that no-one should be left behind as they navigate their own personal journey to find work and achieve financial independence. The organisation works with participants to support them throughout the recruitment process and offers guidance on progression once in work. Seetec Pluss works with employers to encourage them to embrace diversity and adapt their processes.
From experience, job trials are one way, instead of recruitment interviews, to allow candidates with a learning disability to demonstrate their skills rather than describe them. This type of adjustment to the traditional recruitment process helps to breaking down barriers encountered during a typical induction process and allows the transition into work to be managed in bite-sized chunks. There are many ways employers can support people with a learning disability to succeed in the workplace, Seetec Pluss is committed to highlighting the benefits of a more diverse workforce.
Neil explained: “It’s a huge step forward for disabled people to see other people with disabilities working in a business. Disabled-worker-friendly businesses inspire increased loyalty and morale by embracing new ways of working to get the best out of their teams.
“Employers need to reflect the diversity of their community. Adults with learning disabilities are capable of performing complex tasks with the right adjustments in place as part of a job role that is embedded alongside a collaborative and sustainable work environment.
“When we work with employers to enable them to adapt and develop a greater understanding of learning disability, they can recruit incredibly loyal employees, who often work hard. Many people with learning disabilities really appreciate having a job role, a source of income and the opportunity to form new social networks.”
Charlotte, from Hampshire, started working for Seetec Pluss 17 months ago. She has dyslexia and, while she had never previously considered it to be a learning disability, it made administrative tasks extremely difficult.
Charlotte explained: “Before I realised and understood that I had dyslexia, I thought I was unable to carry out admin tasks effectively and therefore would avoid them. Since being at Seetec I have ‘owned’ my dyslexia and that has given me the confidence to overcome challenges by using alternative learning styles.”
Seetec has supported Charlotte to adapt tasks to suit her learning style and also provides disability awareness training to staff which includes tips to make emails and documents dyslexia-friendly.
Charlotte has now been promoted to a Team Leader role which she believes is, in part, due to “being able to embrace the way I learn and adapt accordingly.”
As well supporting thousands of individuals to find and progress in work, Seetec Pluss also offers training services where customers can take part in a wide range of jobs such as woodwork and art, creating a range of hand-made, bespoke products and gifts.
The products are sold on their dedicated online Etsy store, with profits being invested back into the team to continue supporting participants. It’s a great example of celebrating how getting creative has helped people to stay connected and positive over the past year.
Link to the Learning Disability Plymouth team’s Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/UpcycledDesignsSW
Notes to editors
To find out more about Learning Disability week visit,https://www.mencap.org.uk/get-involved/learning-disability-week-2021
ONS figures on employment outcomes for disabled people in the UK are available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/disability/articles/outcomesfordisabledpeopleintheuk/2020#employment