Ciara Lawrence, who has a learning disability and is a campaigns assistant at Mencap, delivered a presentation at the government’s Learning Disability Confident Event.
As part of the Department for Work and Pensions’ Disability Confident campaign, the event brought together employers, government officials and people with a learning disability to debate why 80% of people with a learning disability can work, but only 6% of people have a job.
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In his opening speech, the government's special educational needs expert, Lee Scott MP, said: “If employers are not seriously considering people with learning disabilities for jobs, then they are not always recruiting the best people. The best person for a particular job may well be someone with a learning disability.
“The Government has reformed the special educational needs and disability system, to bring about big changes for families who only ask for what we all expect for our own children – support to help them develop and thrive.
“Having high aspirations for these young people and providing them with the right support will mean that the vast majority of them can go on to succeed in life. This includes choosing where they live, having friends and being part of their local community, being as healthy as possible, and crucially, enjoying the challenges and benefits of a paid job.”
Barriers for people with learning disabilities
Lawrence later delivered a speech about how important her job is and how difficult it was to find. Her work with Mencap has seen her deliver campaign presentations to thought leaders around the world, work closely with government departments to inform policy and be a national media spokesperson on learning disability issues.
She also receives support from the government’s Access to Work scheme and spoke about its effectiveness.
"I’ve been able to give evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee in the House of Commons about the challenges of applying for Access to Work funding and the barriers that people with a learning disability can face with Access to Work if they don’t have the right support," she said.
"I am a member of the Learning Disability Programme Board at the Department of Health, which is chaired by the Minister for Care and Support, Norman Lamb. I deliver presentations, ask questions and interact with key policy makers.
"I am also able to go out and do presentations on important campaign areas, such as voting and education. With the support I have had from Ailis, I have been able to look at successfully developing my career."
To find out more about the campaign visit www.mencap.org.uk