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Monday, 07 November 2016

Mencap urges moves to raise 'woefully low' learning disability employment levels

Written by The Press Association

A leading charity has called for urgent measures to boost the "woefully low" employment levels of people with a learning disability.

Mencap said public attitudes were contributing to the fact that just 5.8% of people with some form of learning disability were in work.

Research for the charity among 2,000 adults found that only half would prefer to work for a company that hired staff with a disability.

If the picture is to improve, more supported internships should be created, access to apprenticeships improved and help given to employers, said the report.

Jan Tregelles, chief executive of Mencap, said: "This research and public reactions really highlights how a lack of understanding around what people with a learning disability are capable of is a crucial factor in the woefully low employment rates experienced by people with a learning disability.

"It is, however, hugely encouraging that when made to think about the issue the public came out in overwhelming support towards employing people with a learning disability, but disheartening to see the outdated assumptions people still have around learning disability.

"It's these assumptions which run through society that can make it so challenging for people with a disability to secure employment.

"Employers we work with consistently tell us how with a little effort they've made their workplaces inclusive to people with a learning disability and encourage others to take the same steps.

"Whilst employers can play a big role, the Government must play its part by opening up apprenticeships to people with a learning disability, reforming the failed 'fit-for-work test', offering more support to employers and putting an end to a benefits system that can trap people with a learning disability in a cycle of poverty."

Simon Stevens, chief executive of the NHS, said: "As the biggest employer in the country, the NHS is now taking concrete action to employ people with a learning disability.

"Hospitals and community health services are increasingly realising that if we get our recruitment and employment of people with learning disabilities right, it's everyone who benefits.

"Learning Disability Work Experience Week is a timely opportunity for health organisations that have not yet started to create meaningful jobs to take the first steps, and get support to do so."

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "Getting more disabled people into work and halving the disability employment gap is one of our top priorities.

"Around 365,000 more disabled people are in work compared to 2014, which is great news but there is more to do.

"That's why we're increasing support in jobcentres, investing more in adapting workplaces for people with specific needs and our recently launched Health and Work Green Paper is looking at how we can go even further."

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