Saturday, 2 March 2024
Saturday, 2 March 2024

Government’s plan to support learning disabled people into work ‘a drop in the ocean’

The learning disability employment gap remains stubbornly high and the latest Local Supported Employment (LSE) initiative from the Government is a ‘drop in the ocean’, according to the national learning disability charity, Hft.

Hft’s CEO, Kirsty Matthews, was responding with caution to the Government’s announcement of a new £7.6 million fund to help over 2,000 adults with learning disabilities and autism into work.

“The LSE initiative is a step in the right direction”, she adds, “but so many people with a learning disability continue to face barriers to paid work, including disabled people facing discrimination and negative attitudes at work, a lack of support and the perceived cost of making workplace adjustments.”

The difference between the proportion of people with a learning disability and non-disabled people in work remains stubbornly high, with the employment rate for all autistic people at 26.5% and 25.6% for those with a ‘severe or specific’ learning disability.

For people with a learning disability receiving long-term social care support, the rate has been around 5 to 6% for many years (5.1% from 2020 to 2021). This compares with an employment rate of 81.9% for the general population.

“These figures show that the LSE initiative aiming for an average of 91 participants in each local authority being able to benefit from the support is a drop in the ocean,” Ms Matthews says.

“In addition, it isn’t clear which local authorities it would cover. We recommend that funding for supported internships, in particular, must be available not only through education routes (and individuals with an Education, Health and Care Plan) but also in a manner that adults with a learning disability over the age of 25 can begin a journey to work.

Last month, in a first for the UK, Hft launched a life-changing transition to employment programme to provide adults over 25 with learning disabilities and/or autism with a pathway to gain competitive, marketable skills to enter into paid work. The DFN Project SEARCH programme is being run in partnership with ClwydAlyn and Flintshire County Council and will start in September 2022.

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