Responding to the latest Office for National Statistics figures, that one million more disabled people are in work, Kirsty Matthews, CEO of learning disability charity Hft, said:
We welcome the news that the Government has reached its target of one million more disabled people in work compared to five years ago. This is positive news for disabled people who want to work, but there is a long way to go for adults with learning disabilities who remain significantly under-represented in the workplace.
We need to ensure adults with a learning disability have the right support on their journey into, and while in employment, as well as dispel myths and concerns from employers, such as being worried about talking about an employee’s disability, so we can help to build more diverse and inclusive workforces. Being open to discussing needs is important to ensure people are able to get the support they need.
However, for many adults with a learning disability, considerable barriers to employment still remain, including getting access to long-term tailored support throughout their working life.
Just 25.6% of people with a learning disability are in work while, among those with a learning disability who receive long-term care, the rate has been around 5% o 6% for many years. This compares with 52.7% for the disabled population as a whole.
Everyone with a learning disability should be given the support and opportunity to enter the world of work if they want to. Employment can bring huge benefits, from improved physical and mental well-being to feelings of independence and confidence. For employers, it means an opportunity to create a diverse and inclusive workforce, and they will benefit from the skills and unique perspective that people with a learning disability will bring to work.
In addition, our recent report, Lockdown on Loneliness, highlighted that, for many people with a learning disability, having a job provides an opportunity to tackle loneliness and isolation. Indeed, people with a learning disability with a job are more confident making friends; just half of people with a learning disability who were not in employment told us they were confident making friends, while three quarters of people with a learning disability who did have a job said they were more confident making friends.
The Government’s commitments made in the social care reform white paper provide hope that more people with a learning disability will be supported to find and stay in work. However, we are yet to see any detail on their proposals, for example around the Access to Work Plus model.
We look forward to working alongside Government and people with a learning disability to ensure the new proposals work for them, and they have equal opportunities to find fulfilling and meaningful employment.