Less than 6% of people with a learning disability known to their local authority are in paid employment in comparison with 76% of the general population in paid work. This figure that has stayed stubbornly low for years according to charity Mencap. Inaccessible application forms mean that nearly a third of people with a learning disability found it hard to apply for jobs, according to their new survey of 1625 adults with a learning disability in the UK.
There are 1.5 million people in the UK with a learning disability, defined as a reduced intellectual ability which affects people for their whole lives. People with a learning disability might take longer to learn new things or may struggle with everyday activities which most of us take for granted, but with the right support, they can develop new skills and make excellent employees. Although 62% of working-age adults with a learning disability want to work, less than 6% of those known to their local authority are in paid employment.
People with a learning disability face many barriers to accessing paid employment. Mencap’s research found that a lack of understanding about learning disability and practical barriers were shutting many out of employment.
Aaron Plummer, 19, has cerebral palsy and a learning disability. His dream is to run his own hotel business one day. While still at college, he was applying for jobs and work experience opportunities in the hotel industry without success. He completed Mencap’s supported internship programme, including a work placement set up by Mencap at Novotel Hotel, in 2019. After completing his work placement, Aaron successfully applied for a job and now works as a conference porter in Novotel Waterloo’s food and beverage department.
Aaron said: “My work experience gave me the real training to get my first job. At the start, my Mencap job coach was there supporting me every day but as I got more confident and more independent they only needed to come in once a week. My work felt normal and I got feedback from my manager telling me to keep up the good work. It felt really good to be recognised for my work. I was really proud to get a job at Novotel back in May.”
Often all that is needed is small and cost-effective reasonable adjustments to open the doors for people with a learning disability who want to work. In 2018 alone, Mencap supported over nearly 1800 people through their employment programmes, with over 250 people securing employment by the end of it.
You can find more information about learning disability and employment here.