Learning Disabilities and Preparing for Employment
In recent years the UK Government has been attempting to maximise the opportunities for people with learning disabilities to enter into employment. Currently there is a significant deficit in the number of people with learning disabilities that are employed and able to work. However, the good news is that many local authorities are stepping up their attempts to mobilise an otherwise overlooked valuable workforce.
Overcoming ObstaclesPeople with learning disabilities have faced extra obstacles in finding employment, notably from a lack of understanding and knowledge from the wider community. In some quarters, there is a misconception that a person with learning disabilities is generally incompetent, or requires support that could ultimately end up costing the firm that hires them. This can lead to unfair disadvantages for people with learning disabilities who are looking to carve out a career path for themselves. It ultimately means that there are many people currently receiving benefits who otherwise could - and want to - support themselves.
Some people feel that in the past, not enough has been done to educate local potential employers and recruitment specialists about the range of skills that people with learning disabilities have to offer – the focus may be on the weaknesses rather than the strengths. This is partly why local authorities in Britain are trying to link up with local employment and training services to increase support for people with learning disabilities, as well as promoting awareness of how learning-disabled people can become part of a valuable and efficient workforce.
Person Centred Planning ApproachIt’s not just a case of allotting any old job to someone with learning disabilities – as with any other job application it should be about identifying and playing to strengths. These may be technical strengths, or personal skills such as excellent numeracy or logic skills that can be applied to a vast array of jobs.
The Government are keen that people with learning disabilities partake in person centred planning – that they are able to make known their goals for the future and receive help in formulating a plan to realise their ambitions and targets. The Government believes that this helps people with learning disabilities have more say and in what direction they take, and what services and support they receive. The ultimate goal is to effectively equip people with learning disabilities so that they have as much choice as non-learning disabled people.
To bolster this belief, in recent years the Government has introduced new or improved legislation and strategies to help people with disabilities - including learning disabilities - have a fair chance of getting into the workplace. The Disability Discrimination Act, Welfare to Work Plan and the Joint Investment Plan all strive to promote opportunity and choice for people with disabilities, and to cut down their reliance on benefits.
What Help Is Available?So if you’re someone with learning disabilities, and you’re keen to get on track with finding employment, what help is out there for you? The first port of call should be your local council, or local authority. The chances are that they have a local learning disability partnership board, with a subgroup dedicated to helping people with learning disabilities and learning difficulties employment.
The services and support in your area may vary, but you should have some kind of learning support service. This service is for adults over 18 with learning disabilities, and provides help with tasks such as CV writing, preparing to go into the workplace, practical career advice and help with finding the right job for you. They may also give advice and training on interview techniques.
Learning support services also extend their support to individuals with learning disabilities who are also employed, to assist with any issues that may arise. If you’re worried about supporting yourself whilst working, the Disability Information Service can provide you with information about benefits and work schemes. The Job Introduction Scheme is also another support service that is available, with an allowance allotted during the first few weeks of employment.
Another useful point of contact is your local Job Centre Plus for support and advice. The New Deal for disabled people and Access to Work are two such initiative that learning disabled people can take part in to help optimise their chances of finding suitable employment.
There are also Valued Occupation schemes that are not necessarily paid, but help to promote inclusion so that people with learning disabilities can spend their time doing activities that they enjoy. Likewise an unpaid Social Enterprise project could help in preparing for entering into the workplace. This could be a first step towards gaining paid work, or incorporated into day services.
SkillsPeople with learning disabilities can further their chances of finding paid employment by developing personal and technical skills. This can also often be part of person centred planning, to help a person work out what kind of work they’d ideally like to do. Skills development can be done through first undertaking voluntary or community work, which can also look impressive on a CV.
Another route is attend a college course, or go on specific training courses to add and develop any existing skills. There are many opportunities for people with learning disabilities to enter into college courses, and all colleges should provide extra support for disabled and learning disabled people.
By understanding the choices available to them, people with learning disabilities face a far better chance of entering into employment. A care manager or social worker should be able to provide details of local initiatives that will provide advice and support.