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

Government’s WorkWell scheme ‘does not go far enough’, charity says

The learning disability charity Hft has cautiously welcomed the government’s new WorkWell scheme but warns it “does not go far enough”.

The WorkWell scheme is a new initiative backed by £64 million of government funding. The key aim of the programme is to help people with disabilities or health conditions to return to work.

The scheme provides personal support to identify employment needs, get training to help people find work as well as match skills to available employment.

Launched by the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health and Social Care, the WorkWell scheme aims to support around 60,000 long-term sick or disabled people across 15 local areas to start, stay, and succeed in work, regardless of whether or not they are claiming benefits for this.

WorkWell programme predicated on people ‘planning their way out of unemployment’

However, Hft’s CEO, Steve Veevers, said the programme is “predicated on people ‘planning’ their way out of unemployment” and this is simply not possible for many disabled people.

Furthermore, Mr Veevers says there are already good employment models such as DFN Project Search which “need to be taken more seriously”.

DFN Project SEARCH aims to support 10,000 young adults with a learning disability or autism in the UK into paid employment by 2030. However, as a charity, it relies on donations from individuals, trusts, foundations and companies.

Mr Veevers said: “For some learning disabled people, having the right support at the right time is a lifeline to moving into and staying in work, but the learning disability employment gap is considerably higher than that of other disabled people. Education, training and support are all essential components.”

Supported internships must be available to adults over the age of 25

Hft is therefore calling for the government to include supported internships in employment programmes in order to ensure people with learning disabilities can access the right support.

“We believe funding for programmes such as supported internships must be available not only through education routes (and individuals with EHCPs), but also to adults over the age of 25 so they can access this vital support on their journey to work.

“Including supported internships as part of the Work and Health Programme would be one way to ensure more learning disabled people over the age of 25 could access this vital support. The one-size-fits-all approach to this programme does not do service to many disabled people and their individual needs.

“We want to see people with a learning disability receive the right support so they can find and keep fulfilling and meaningful work, where they are paid the same as others doing the same job. Employers and the public must also understand that learning disabled people can make valuable contributions in the workplace when given the right support, and recognise this in their recruitment and working practices,” said Mr Veevers.

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