employedThe lowest UK unemployment rate for nearly 10 years merely ignores the on-going failure to address the fact that just 6% of people with a learning disability are in paid work, learning disability charity Mencap has claimed.

Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that the number of people out of work fell by 110,000 between August and October – continuing an overall trend of decreasing unemployment over the past 3 years. However, the number of people with learning disabilities in paid work known to English councils has fallen from 7.1% in 2012 to 6% in 2015.

Dan Scorer, head of policy at Mencap said: “Although we are pleased that employment figures are improving we still need to see urgent action as to how the government will meet its commitment of halving the disability employment gap. There are just 6% of people with a learning disability who are in paid work. Barriers such as the attitudes of employers to government initiatives that fail to understand the support people with a learning disability need to gain jobs are preventing many people who are capable of work from gaining employment.

“If we are ever going to ensure people with a learning disability experience the independence, pride and freedom that comes with having a job, we need employers, the Government and representative organisations to come together and acknowledge the valuable contribution those with a learning disability can make to our economy.”

With the government’s commitment to halve the disability employment gap, Mencap believes there should be a greater focus on how to remove the barriers to employment than ever before. However, proposed cuts to the Work Related Activity Group of Employment and Support Allowance could make it harder for them to find work and contradict the government’s aim of getting more disabled people into work.

Barriers to employment for people with a learning disability include:

Lack of in-work support

Attitudes of employers that people with a learning disability can only do menial tasks

Government disability employment programmes do not meet the needs of people with a learning disability

Welfare system that strips benefits if you earn even a small amount.

Ciara Lawrence, who has a learning disability and struggled to find employment, added: "I’m one of just 6% of people with a learning disability to have a job. I had lots of interviews before I got my job with Mencap. All I wanted to do was to earn my own money and be independent like anyone else. 

“There are too many barriers that stop people with a learning disability getting a job, such as staff at Job Centre’s not understanding about learning disability and employers not realising what someone with a learning disability can do. The government needs to understand the challenges people with a learning face and help break down these barriers and not add to them by making it harder to get the support they rely on from benefits.”