Woman with learning disability calls for UK businesses to employ more disabled people

Photo: Woman with learning disability using a laptop

Inclusion also means full access to the first job market for people with all kinds of disabilities; © panthermedia.net/designpics

Last week, Ciara Lawrence who has a learning disability and is a campaigns assistant at Mencap, delivered a presentation at the government’s Learning Disability Confident Event in the Houses of Parliament.

As part of the Department for Work and Pensions' Disability Confident campaign, the event brought together employers, government officials and people with a learning disability to show employers that offering employment to people with a learning disability is both straightforward and beneficial to their organisations.

It is estimated that 80 percent of people with a learning disability can work, but only 6 percent of people with a learning disability have a job. People with a learning disability have the lowest employment rate amongst disabled people as a whole.

In his opening speech, Special Educational Needs Tsar, Lee Scott MP, said: "If employers are not seriously considering people with learning disabilities for jobs, then they are not always recruiting the best people. The best person for a particular job may well be someone with a learning disability." He continues by saying: "The Government has reformed the special educational needs and disability system, to bring about big changes for families who only ask for what we all expect for our own children – support to help them develop and thrive. Having high aspirations for these young people and providing them with the right support will mean that the vast majority of them can go on to succeed in life. This includes choosing where they live, having friends and being part of their local community, being as healthy as possible, and crucially, enjoying the challenges and benefits of a paid job."

Ciara Lawrence later delivered a speech about how important her job is and how difficult it was to find. She has a learning disability and has worked for Mencap for the past 14 years. Her work with Mencap has seen her deliver campaign presentations to thought leaders around the world, work closely with government departments to inform policy and be a national media spokesperson on learning disability issues.

Before Lawrence worked for Mencap, she experienced significant barriers to getting a job. "There is not enough support to help people with a learning disability prepare for interviews and fill in forms. Also, when they are in work, there is very little support for things like travelling or getting to work," she said. "I know this because of the barriers that I faced when I tried to get a job. When I went to my local job centre to try and find work, the staff did not understand about learning disability and the support I needed. They gave me lots of forms which were hard to fill in and I didn’t get good support. My family had to support me to find jobs. They helped me fill in forms and they took me to interviews."

Lawrence continues by saying: "When I went for job interviews, employers did not want to hire me because of my learning disability. After a long time of frustration, I found out there was a Disability Employment Officer at the job centre. She supported me to find work."

Lawrence receives support from the government's Access to Work scheme. Ailis Hardy, her support worker, helps her to learn new skills and do her job to the best of her abilities. Lawrence spoke about support from Access to Work has helped her achieve great things in work: "I've been able to give evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee in the House of Commons about the challenges of applying for Access to Work funding and the barriers that people with a learning disability can face with Access to Work if they don’t have the right support."

Lawrence concluded by calling on employers throughout the UK to seriously consider employing people with a learning disability: "I want organisations to employ people with a learning disability. If employers do this, it will show that people with a learning disability make good employees. And I want employers to give people with a learning disability the right support so they can get jobs and develop in their jobs – not just to be employed in a tokenistic way."

REHACARE.de; Source: Mencap

More about Mencap at: www.mencap.org.uk