Aaron Plummer with his manager Lorena Vasile and Peter Ilic, the Conferences and Events Manager at Novotel.
Inaccessible application forms mean that nearly a third of people with a learning disability found it hard to apply for jobs
  • Although 62% of working-aged adults with a learning disability want to work, less than 6% of people with a learning disability known to their local authority are in paid employment
  • Mencap releases findings from a new national survey of 1625 people with a learning disability to mark Learning Disability Work Week (Monday 18th – Friday 22nd November 2019) – Mencap’s biggest ever survey of people with a learning disability.

Less than 6% of people with a learning disability known to their local authority are in paid employment, compared to 76.1% of the general population.  A figure that has stayed stubbornly low for years according to the UK’s leading learning disability charity Mencap this Learning Disability Work Week.

Inaccessible application forms mean that nearly a third of people with a learning disability found it hard to apply for jobs, according to Mencap’s new survey of 1625 adults with a learning disability in the UK.

This Learning Disability Work Week, Mencap aims to show that people with a learning disability can work and can make good employees to change employer attitudes and practices to help open doors for this untapped talent pool.

There are 1.5 million people in the UK with a learning disability, defined as a reduced intellectual ability which affects people for their whole lives. People with a learning disability might take longer to learn new things or may struggle with everyday activities which most of us take for granted, but with the right support, people with a learning disability can develop new skills and make excellent employees. Although 62% of working-aged adults with a learning disability want to work, less than 6% of people with a learning disability known to their local authority are in paid employment.

People with a learning disability face many barriers to accessing paid employment. Mencap’s research found that a lack of understanding about learning disability and practical barriers were shutting many people with a learning disability out of employment.

Aaron Plummer, 19, has cerebral palsy and a learning disability. His dream is to run his own hotel business one day. While still at college, he was applying for jobs and work experience opportunities in the hotel industry without success. He completed Mencap’s supported internship programme, including a work placement set up by Mencap at Novotel Hotel, in 2019. After completing his work placement, Aaron successfully applied for a job and now works as a conference porter in Novotel Waterloo’s food and beverage department.

He said:

“I couldn’t wait to join the world of work. It has always been my dream to start a business in the hotel industry. When I was at college, I was looking for anything, like volunteering, just to get the experience of working in a hotel. But I wasn’t getting anywhere. No one replied. Everything changed when Mencap came to present at my school. I knew right away that I wanted to join their supported internship programme. When I started, Mencap supported me to be more independent and more employable. They helped me with time-keeping, looking smart, using the internet safely and also provided travel training. They even got me a work placement in my dream job.

“When I’ve been on holidays, I’ve stayed in hotels and loved being a guest. My work experience gave me the real training to get my first job. At the start, my Mencap job coach was there supporting me every day but as I got more confident and more independent they only needed to come in once a week. My work felt normal and I got feedback from my manager telling me to keep up the good work. It felt really good to be recognised for my work. I was really proud to get a job at Novotel back in May. I’d say to anyone who is hungry for work: go for it! If you know that you want to work, do a supported internship. Don’t wait, go for it! You’ll never regret it!”

Often all that is needed is small and cost-effective reasonable adjustments to open the doors for people with a learning disability who want to work. In 2018 alone, Mencap supported over nearly 1800 people with a learning disability through our employment programmes, with over 250 people securing employment by the end of it.

Mark Capper, Head of Development at the learning disability charity Mencap, said:

“People with a learning disability can work and want to work, and with the right support, they can also make really fantastic employees. But currently people with a learning disability are being shut out of work and this is having a negative impact on their quality of life. It limits their independence, knocks their self-esteem and makes them feel even more excluded from society. We at Mencap want to change this.

“People with a learning disability face many barriers to getting into work, but many people with a learning disability often fall at the first hurdle because the recruitment process is inaccessible. Most employers will not even be aware that having online-only application forms and formal interview processes that they are closing the door on an untapped talent pool. Often all that is needed is small and cost-effective reasonable adjustments in the workplace to open up doors to people with a learning disability who then go on to be committed employees, and that’s where Mencap’s employment programmes can help.

“Mencap can support employers to ensure that people with a learning disability have greater access to employment opportunities by helping employers with everything from making their application process more accessible through to providing job coaches. That’s why this Learning Disability Work Week, we want to work with more employers to help them make small changes to their workplace to make a big difference for people with a learning disability.”

Lorena Vasile, Talent and Culture Coordinator at Novotel London Waterloo, said:

“We are so grateful for the support Mencap has offered in the placement of Aaron. We cultivate a very diverse and multicultural team and we are constantly striving to learn and improve on our staff wellbeing. Our industry thrives on passionate people and passion in any form is to be rewarded and looked after, Mencap provided us with guidance on how to best support Aaron in his work placement and integrate him in the team. After we have decided to offer Aaron his well-earned place in our team, we had bi-monthly meetings with Mencap to follow up on his performance and the strong relationship he has formed with the Mencap team has helped us be more intuitive and responsive to his needs.

“His willingness to succeed and improve has inspired our staff who has not only welcomed him but looked up to him. We all had something to learn from Aaron’s determination for success and just two months after his official employment with us, our team has voted him to be Employee of the month for July 2019.

“We encourage all establishments to be open to making reasonable adjustments as it is only through the wellbeing of your talents that your business will succeed!”

Find out more about Learning Disability Work Week this week and Mencap’s employment services: https://www.mencap.org.uk/get-involved/learning-disability-work-week