A new two-year project that aims to use picture books and group discussions to help people with learning disabilities to find and keep a job has been launched by the government.
Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green launched the project, which is being run by Beyond Words, a social enterprise that produces books, services and training for people who find pictures easier to understand than words, and has £280,000 investment from the Department for Work and Pensions.
The project will include four new picture books to promote group discussions on finding and keeping a job. It builds on the success of book groups for people with learning disabilities and autism and will be the start of a new focus on four stages of employment including leaving school or college, exploring work, finding and staying in a job.
Groups of learning disability service providers, employment services and experts with learning disabilities will form an integral part of the project through advisory groups on each book and on training.
Beyond Words books are discussed in book club groups that have been established in many local libraries. City Lit’s Learning Centre in Covent Garden will be starting two new book clubs in 2017 and will be among the first to use the new resources.
At a launch event at City Lit, Green met people who will benefit from the project. He said: “A disability should not dictate the path a person is able to take in life. What should count is a person’s talent and their determination to succeed.
"Beyond Words book clubs help people with a learning disability to break down the barriers they face. It's a brilliant project that offers people with learning disabilities the support they need. I look forward to working with them."
People with a learning disability are more excluded from the workplace than any other group of disabled people. More than 65% of people with a learning disability and autism would like a paid job yet only 7% have one and in many cases this is part-time work.
Employment advisers will visit the Beyond Words’ book clubs to use the new books and help members explore volunteering and work. People with learning disabilities will be trained as a national network of peer supporters to work with the clubs.
Special schools and SEN units will also be offered the opportunity to use this model of communication and discussion to support their students as they move on to adult life, helping them achieve their aspirations.
Baroness Hollins, founder and chair of Beyond Words, said: “The majority of disabled people want to work and hope that they can find work that interests them and recognises their skills. Beyond Words co-creates stories without words with people with learning disabilities that resonate with the reality of their own lives. They are stories that help people to understand the ways of the world, to share their own stories and aspirations and to tackle the barriers that prevent them from participating fully in community life.”