Learning Disability and Work

Did you know that disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people, and that one in five employers say that they would be less likely to employ a disabled person? And when it comes to people with a learning disability, the figures are even more stark: of the one in 50 people in the UK that have a learning disability, just 6% of those known to local authorities and of working age are in paid employment. This is despite the fact that, according to data from Mencap, 60% are able and willing to work.

Studies show that work helps to increase self-esteem and status, as well as providing companionship. And there is good evidence to show that being out of work is bad for your health: people who are unemployed have poorer mental and physical health overall, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Here at Yarrow we believe that supporting the people we support to find suitable employment is an essential part of enabling people to flourish. It’s a vital step in the journey towards more independence, growing their self-esteem and confidence, and taking more control over the decisions that affect their lives.

Michelle, one of the people we support, told her support workers that one of her goals was to find a job. In order to build up her confidence and skills, we supported her to work as a cleaner for five hours per week at one of our supported living services. She has been doing this for three years and has done an excellent job. She is conscientious, and the role has really helped to develop her confidence and bring her closer to the job market.

Michelle using a mop to clean the floor
Michelle hard at work

At a recent key-working meeting Michelle told us that she would like to do more hours. We looked into the options and Michelle’s keyworker, Janet, supported her in making an application to Balance Employment Support at Kensington and Chelsea.

Michelle and Janet outside the doors of Balance
Michelle and Janet at Balance

They put Michelle in touch with employment consultant, Chelsea, who worked with her to create an action plan. After considering a few options, Michelle decided that she would like to volunteer in a charity shop. Chelsea explained the responsibilities of the role, which will include greeting and helping customers, and helping to sort, fold and hang the clothes that have been donated. From next month, Michelle will be volunteering there for four hours per week, and she is really excited to get started.

Michelle and Chelsea outside the doors of Balance
Michelle and Chelsea

This is a real achievement for Michelle. Initially, she will be accompanied by Chelsea to make sure that she is comfortable and happy. Once she is settled, she will go to work independently. This role will give Michelle a great opportunity to gain more experience, learn more skills and further develop her growing confidence. Another big step towards her goal to gain paid employment.

Adults with learning disabilities have a lot to offer their communities and employers. With the right support, they can become highly motivated and valued members of a team. But finding the opportunities to do so can be difficult.

If you are an employer in the West London area who would like to provide a work experience placement or longer-term role for someone with a learning disability, please get in touch with us here at Yarrow. We would love to hear from you and can help every step of the way with support and advice. We can also offer training for your organisation. The more that people with a learning disability take part in their community and the world of work, the better people will understand their capabilities and strengths.

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