Approximately 6% of people with a learning disability are in paid employment; a figure far lower than for any other kind of disability.
This only includes people who are known to social services, so think of how many more aren't included.
My colleagues and I have one focus: to dramatically increase that percentage.
My role focuses on a number of things but a lot of what I do is to raise awareness of the talent that employers are missing; the richness that comes to a workplace when an organisation employs a person with a learning disability, and some of the ways that you might adapt a workplace to suit an individual’s needs.
Leading with LD event
We held an event at our office in Borough on 6 April 2017 called Leading with LD.
In attendance were some of the people we support along with representatives from the council, job centre, and employers.
The event was was a forum for listening and sharing some of the fantastic examples of work that’s already being done and looking at how we can all do more, together. Lots of people shared good practice with each other, thereby building on the momentum of what we’re doing.
Some of the people we heard from at the event were:
- The people we support - Chez and Yetunde gave contrasting stories of success and frustration (but brilliant news for Yetunde – she was later offered a job by Jane Hatton at Evenbreak, a gig at Channel 4!)
- South West Trains - providing paid employment to the people we support for four years now. As Dennis Horgan said: “it’s so simple.”
- The Financial Times - we are at the start of our journey with them but have truly felt the integrity of their commitment: through two successful work placements and a third one happening later in April (not to mention their amazing print ad promotions!).
- Baldwins - A local health products business who are currently working with us to create a paid position in their distribution department.
- Kids from Museums - Catherine McKeag has provided many volunteer opportunities for the people we support, boosting confidence and skills.
- Disability Rights UK - Thought leadership from Philip Connolly on recognising the need for future thinking e.g. increasing digital literacy and inclusion for people with a learning disability.
- Vanquis Bank - Annette Saunders, surely one of our most active and vocal supporters spoke from the heart about her own organisation’s striving to do more, and how equality in all its forms still needs to be fought for.
- Orchard Hill College - Olly Connolly drew on his personal and career history and spoke about the need to do things differently, he said: "We all have a responsibility to see the practical potential of someone with a learning disability, not just academic ability; asking managers and directors to make work trials part of the recruitment process is key to ensuring individuals can show their true worth as employees."
- Mencap - Ismail Khan has a ‘direct line’ to the legislation that forms the foundation to the future of all our collective efforts (the DWP Green Paper “Improving Lives”) and has done a lot of work within Parliament to promote the agenda for people with a learning disability.
- Neil Coyle (MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark) - fitted us in around his usual punishing schedule, with very personal reasons to attend as well as his obvious role in challenging aspects of existing and proposed Government legislation
All of this was chaired expertly by Matt Parry, Employer Engagement Manager (South) for Mencap.
How you can get involved
We will be running another event toward the end of the year with even more employers to help get the people we support into paid employment.
If you’re interested in being part of this, please get in touch. I would love to hear your views:
A bit about me
I am the Lead Coordinator, Employer Engagement for Mencap in Southwark; a role that started at the end of 2016.
I have been in this team just a year, starting as an Employment Coordinator. My role is to develop relationships with employers (preferably local SMEs, but I’m not fussy!) that will generate paid jobs for the people with a learning disability that we support.
I have nearly always worked in roles that support others and I would say I get my joy from using all kinds of communication to create connections.