Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Community in action: new workplace diversity campaign

Changing lives, creating futures is a bold vision but it is one we all need to hold firmly in our sights, particularly now, as we begin the heroic effort of stitching our economy and lives back together following the coronavirus pandemic.

Just a few weeks ago Chancellor Rishi Sunak set out his plans for a UK-wide recovery with significant emphasis on supporting businesses, protecting jobs and a boost to traineeships and apprenticeships. All welcome news as the coming years are going to be tough.

With hundreds of thousands of people already facing unemployment because of the pandemic and the very likely prospect of further jobs losses, the reality is it will be an uphill struggle for many.

We are already seeing a significant rise in demand for our supported employment and training services as a result and we are working hard to provide every individual who walks through our door with the right opportunity to shape their future.

Our support is available to a wide range of individuals including the long-term unemployed, people looking to re-skill or upskill their talents, youngsters leaving care, young adults with learning disabilities, people with hidden disabilities and those facing mental challenges.

No one should be denied the opportunity to create the future they want

The latter is an issue which has been brought sharply into focus during the pandemic of course, with the lockdowns seeing many people left isolated and the familiar networks of support in some cases disappeared altogether.

Jobs and stability underpin all our lives. In many cases it is what defines us, gives us a purpose and provides financial freedom and in our view, no one should be denied the opportunity to change their life and create the future they want.

We’re already helping to make an enormous difference to the lives of 3,000 people a year by supporting them into long-term jobs. Then there are thousands more who we are helping to train each year to ensure they have the right skills for the right job.

But we know there is more we can achieve and that’s why we’re launching our new initiative ‘We See You’.

We want to extend the reach of our support services and encourage greater diversity across workplaces. We know there are a growing number of people that need our support, and we want them to know that first class help is at hand. We can remove the barriers to education, training and employment.

We see every person as an individual, each with their own unique skills and talents and therefore the support we provide is tailored specifically to enable personal goals to be achieved. So, whether you want to be a hairdresser, a builder, a health worker or run your own business, our work centres on helping you to create the life you want.

Although our campaign will be ongoing throughout the year, we’ve aptly timed the launch to coincide with Autism Awareness Week as working with individuals who have hidden disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder is a key part of the support we deliver.

We have specialists who provide online autism courses for employers to gain a better understanding of the challenges facing those with autism and how they can adapt their workplaces.

The work we’re doing here to drive awareness is without doubt having an impact on employment rates nationally for those with autism.

We also directly employ a significant number of people with autism to help deliver Landau’s services.

This is something we’re very proud of so do look out on our social media where we will be sharing lots of success stories related to the individuals who have received our support.

As a business owner you can also support our campaign by looking for ways to achieve greater diversity in your own workplace. By doing so you’ll actively be helping us to change lives and create futures for thousands of individuals.


Case study

It took years for Shelley to find help. From a young age she knew she was different. She preferred He-Man to Barbie, dungarees to dresses but that wasn’t all. School was difficult. Concentrating on subjects Shelley didn’t enjoy was taxing but she didn’t get the help she needed.

By age 16, Shelley was homeless and heading down the wrong track.

“Ultimately it could have led me to prison or worse,” says Shelley, who admits spending many years making some poor life choices.

Thankfully, it never came to that and in her late 20s, she managed to turn her life around, starting with a course in secretarial studies which helped her get a job and put a roof over her head. Then at 29, Shelley began studying A-Levels, followed by a degree in Business Management.

It was around this time that the first piece in the jigsaw fell into place and she began, for the first time, to see why life up to this point had been so challenging for her. Shelley was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia.

However, it was to be another 10 years before she was handed the final piece of that jigsaw. A visit to her GP in 2019 for an un-related matter saw Shelley referred for an assessment at her local autism centre.

“I was diagnosed two months after my 40th birthday,” she said, explaining that life then began to make much more sense to her. “It made me realise what had happened throughout my life and why I’d made the decisions I’d made.

“It was a great lift off my shoulders and allowed me to understand how to adjust for a more balanced life.”

Shelley, who works for supported employment and training charity Landau, now uses her own life experiences plus a teaching qualification in special educational needs and her vast experience working across educational and private business settings, to support other young people facing similar life challenges to her own.

She also leads the charity’s online autism course, delivering support and advice to employers nationally to help them better understand autism and how they can adapt to cater for autistic people in the workplace.

She’s telling her story this week as part of Landau’s new ‘We See You’ campaign which has been launched to coincide with Autism Awareness Week 2021 to highlight the work being done by the charity to support a range of people, including those with hidden disabilities like autism, into education and employment.

“It is important to recognise autism is not a processing error, it is a different operating system,” she said. “But unfortunately, it is not always easy to detect, and people can present as aggressive, arrogant, moody, blunt, rude, or even anxious.

“What’s important across all education and workplace settings is that we foster a sense of confidence and belonging instead of hopelessness and negativity in these trying times. To break barriers and remove stigma is a vital process, helping recognise an almost undetectable disability at times is not easy.

“However, the more this can happen the better chances autistic adults have in improving the quality of their lives – wellbeing, outlook, and prospects.

“If my little story can help somebody, then that means a lot to me.”


 Sonia Roberts is CEO of Landau


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