November 9, 2020
As COVID-19 has forced businesses to change where and how they work this year, the learning disability charity Mencap is now calling on employers to think differently about WHO they employ. The pandemic has highlighted the invaluable contribution people with a learning disability and/ or autism can make as hardworking and valued employees.
Mencap are marking this Learning Disability Work Week by asking employers to finally open doors for this untapped talent pool, who face significant barriers to job entry. This is despite many employers reporting that they are often loyal and dedicated employees – as well as their employment helping to boost staff morale, champion inclusion and enhance diversity within organisations.
Mencap supports people with a learning disability and/or autism into a wide range of industries – from supermarkets to logistics and hospitals to hotels. Through their roles, many have been keyworkers throughout lockdown – the people society has all relied on to keep the country moving through the most difficult of times.
Many people with a learning disability and/or autism can work and want to work but are often shut out of employment, which can have a hugely negative impact on their quality of life. Paid employment can help make people feel valued and equal, included in society, and increase their independence and self-esteem.
Exclusion from employment can happen because of stigma, a lack of understanding about learning disability and autism, and unwillingness to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace. Many people simply fall at the first hurdle because the recruitment process is inaccessible.
“Work makes you more confident, you can be included, not excluded in society.”
Often all that is needed is small and cost-effective reasonable adjustments to open the doors for people with a learning disability and/or autism who want to work, such as offering accessible application forms or even something as simple as holding a work trial instead of a traditional job interview. Other adjustments include offering on-the-job support through job coaches who can be provided through government funding.
A person Mencap supported into employment at Islington Council, says: “Having a disability makes you lose confidence. You can feel alone. But work makes you more confident, you can be included, not excluded in society.”
Mark Capper, Head of Development in the Lifestyles & Work team at the learning disability charity Mencap, said: “The world of work has been thrown upside down by COVID, now is the time for employers to think differently about who they hire. This year every employer has had to adapt and innovate to support their workforce through this unprecedented time. Including people with different experiences and skills will only enhance businesses and their offer.
“People with a learning disability and autism can work and want to work and with the right support they can also make fantastic employees – with some even working as the keyworkers we’ve all relied on to keep things moving. They just need a chance to show they can do it.”
Through its employment programmes, Mencap supports people with a learning disability and / or autism to become more independent and develop their employability as well as helping people to find work placements. Work experience, alongside training courses, gives people the real training they need to get on the employment ladder.