In this guest blog for Learning Disability Week, Norwood’s Angela Duce talks about the benefits of employment for people with learning disabilities:
The benefits of being in work are well-documented. People in employment are less likely to suffer from mental and physical health problems, and work boosts your self-esteem and lifts your mood. For those with a learning disability, work offers even greater advantages, enabling people to develop their work and social skills, and become more independent. The theme for this year's National Learning Disability Week is "firsts", marking landmark moments in people's lives. For many of us, the day we start our first job is one we never forget.
Norwood’s Work Skills and Employment service aims to provide people with learning disabilities with the same opportunities to find and remain in meaningful employment as everyone else. We have two work hubs – one in Stanmore and the other in Berkshire at Norwood Ravenswood in Crowthorne.
As well as placing people in work and supporting them in their new roles, we also offer a number of initial training courses for jobseekers, such as work skills, budgeting and community safety. We also run a work-experience programme, so that people can gain a first-hand understanding of a role that they may not have considered before. They can then make a more informed choice about the kind of career they would like to pursue.
Norwood job coaches work on a one-to-one basis with the people we support. This covers everything from working on their CVs to searching for a job, from interview preparation to travel training. After this, the job coach provides on-the-job support so that the person is able to complete the tasks required in their job and remain in paid employment.
In January, we re-launched Kennedys at our Kennedy Leigh Family Centre in northwest London. The coffee shop (pictured) offers trainees an 18-month training programme, where they learn about customer service, till and money management, food hygiene and preparation, and safety procedures. They are also provided with barista training. This grounding in the food services industry means that trainees gain the experience they need to progress to paid employment.
After 12 months, each trainee receives support from an allocated job coach. The job coach works alongside them for the remaining six months of their training period, helping them to identify their future career goals and supporting them to find work or undertake further training. Individual objectives are set and reviewed on a regular basis.
Once a training position has been agreed, trainees can expect a person-centred approach to support. We understand that everyone has different learning styles and, with this in mind, we try to make sure the support is appropriate to people's individual needs. This could include providing information and teaching aids in an easy-read format or using pictorial prompts to ensure effective communication.
So far, across our work hubs, 116 people have been placed in paid employment, of which 93 are part-time and the feedback from employers has been overwhelmingly positive. A further 114 are undertaking further training.
Angela Duce is director of operations at Norwood