The number of people with learning disabilities in paid employment known to English councils has fallen from 7.1% in 2012 to just 6% in 2015, according to the British Association for Supported Employment.
While overall the number of people employed in Britain is growing, according to the Office for National Statistics, it appears that the barriers to employment for people with learning disabilities are increasing.
Barriers to employment for people with a learning disability include:
• Lack of in-work support
• Employers believing 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, trapping people with learning disabilities in poverty.
A recent survey by Mencap also highlighted the attitudes of employers, which can also contribute to the barriers people with learning disabilities face. For instance, almost half (46%) acknowledged that their organisation’s job descriptions, adverts and application forms are not easy for somebody with a learning disability to read and fill in. The same number were worried there was extra work involved in recruiting and managing someone with a learning disability. Finally, only 72% believed people with a learning disability are able to work in their workforce.
Mark Capper, head of employer engagement 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.”
Ciara Lawrence, who has a learning disability and struggled to find employment, said: "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.”