How many adults with a learning disability have a paid job?

People with a learning disability are far less likely to have a job than the general population:

  • 6% of adults with a learning disability known to their local authority in England are in paid work (HSCIC 2015)
  • 17% of all adults with a learning disability in England are in paid work (Emerson and Hatton 2008)
  • 47% of people aged 16 to 64 with any type of disability in Great Britain are in paid work (ONS 2016a)
  • 74% of people aged 16 to 64 in the general population in England are in paid work (ONS 2016b).

England

7,430 people with a learning disability aged 18-64 were in paid employment in 2014/15. This is 6.0% of people with a learning disability who are known to their local authority (HSCIC 2015). It is important to emphasise that this percentage only refers to people who are known to their local authority, which is a minority of people with a learning disability in England (and mostly includes people with a more severe learning disability).

The proportion of adults with a learning disability in paid employment varies by region. HSCIC has produced an interactive map showing the proportion of people with a learning disability in paid employment in each local authority in England. London has the highest proportion of adults with a learning disability known to their local authority in paid employment, at 7.7% (HSCIC 2015).

In England, a higher proportion of men with a learning disability known to their local authority (6.4%) are in paid employment than women with a learning disability known to their local authority (5.3%).

There is very little current data on the proportion of all adults with a learning disability who have paid jobs in England, but past studies have suggested that about 17% of all working age people with a learning disability have a paid job.

In a survey of almost 3000 people with a learning disability in England, Emerson et al. (2005) found that 17% of the working age people with a learning disability had a paid job. In 2008, Emerson and Hatton carried out further employment analysis, using nationally representative data sources. Again, they estimated that 17% of all working age people with a learning disability had a paid job. They further estimated that:

  • 10% of working age people with a severe learning disability had a job
  • 28% of working age people with a mild or moderate learning disability had a job
  • 0% of working age people with profound and multiple learning disabilities had a job

We don’t think the employment situation for people with a learning disability has changed since these pieces of research were undertaken.

Scotland

Of the 26,786 adults with a learning disability known to local authorities in Scotland in 2014:

  • 6.7% were in employment
  • 5.7% were in training for employment
  • 1.5% volunteered

Of those adults with a learning disability who were employed:

  • 29% were in employment specifically set up for people with a learning disability
  • 49% were in employment that was not specifically set up for people with a learning disability
  • 1% were self employed
  • For 21% the employment type was not specified (SCLD 2015)

Wales

The Welsh government does not publish data on how many people with a learning disability in Wales are in paid work. However, the Labour Force Survey (LFS) provides data on the economic activity of people in Wales aged 16-64 who have a disability according to the Equality Act 2010 definition of disability (StatsWales 2015).

The LFS found that 48.2% of people with a disability in Wales were employed in 2015, compared to 82.3% of people who were not disabled (StatsWales 2015).

The higher employment rate for people with any disability in Wales compared to the employment rate of people with a learning disability in England and Scotland suggests that people with a learning disability are less likely to have a job than people with other types of disability.

StatsWales (2015) provides data on the economic activity of people with a disability in Wales by area.

Northern Ireland

The Northern Irish government does not publish data on how many people with a learning disability in Northern Ireland are in paid work. However, the Labour Force Survey (LFS) provides data on the economic activity of people in Northern Ireland aged 16-64 who describe themselves as having a long-term disability (DETINI 2016).

The LFS found that 32.7% of people with a disability in Northern Ireland were employed in October-December 2015, compared to 78.8% of people who were not disabled (DETINI 2016).

  • 6% of adults with a learning disability known to their local authority in England are in paid work
  • 10% of adults with a learning disability in paid employment in England worked 30 hours or more a week in 2014
  • 7% of the 26,786 adults with a learning disability known to local authorities in Scotland in 2014 were in employment

How many hours do people with a learning disability work?

In January 2016, 31.42 million people aged 16 to 64 were in paid work in the UK. Of these members of the general population who were in paid work:

  • 73% worked full time (on average 37.5 hours per week)
  • 27% worked part time (on average 16.4 hours per week) (ONS 2016b)

However, people with a learning disability who have a job are likely to work fewer hours than the general population (NASCIS 2016; SCLD 2015)

England

The most recent data on the working hours of adults with a learning disability known to local authorities in England is from 2013/14. Out of 9580 adults with a learning disability in paid employment or self-employed:

  • 9.9% worked 30 or more hours per week
  • 20.8% worked 16 to 29.9 hours per week
  • 36.0% worked 4 to 15.9 hours per week
  • 26.8% worked weekly but less than 4 hours per week
  • 6.5% worked regularly but less than weekly (NASCIS 2016)

Scotland

In 2014, data was collected on the working hours of 2190 adults with a learning disability who were known to local authorities in Scotland and were employed, volunteering or in training for employment. Of these adults:

  • 64.5% worked less than 16 hours per week
  • 35.5% worked 16 hours per week or more

A further 1535 adults were employed but the hours they worked were unknown (SCLD 2015).

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What are the barriers to people with a learning disability getting a job?

People with a learning disability are less likely to be employed than people without a learning disability. They are also less likely to work in high level (managerial, professional and technical) jobs, and more likely to work in lower level and manual jobs, which pay lower wages (Meager and Higgins 2011).

Research has identified a number of barriers that can make it more difficult for people with a learning disability to get a job, stay in work, and make progress at work. These include:

  • Negative attitudes or low expectations of people with a learning disability, their families and carers
  • Negative attitudes or low expectations of employers, managers or colleagues
  • Skills and qualifications gaps for people with a learning disability
  • A lack of flexible, personalised employment programmes for people with a learning disability who are looking for work
  • A lack of appropriate job opportunities
  • Unfair treatment, discrimination, bullying or harassment in the workplace
  • Issues relating to access and support in the workplace (including difficulties with transport, physical access or a lack of specialist equipment in the workplace)

(Watts et al. 2014; Roulstone et al. 2014; Hall and Wilton 2015; Coleman et al. 2013; Meager and Higgins 2011)

References

  • Coleman, N., Sykes, W., and Groom, C. (2013) Barriers to Employment and Unfair Treatment at Work: a Quantitative Analysis of Disabled People’s Experiences. Equality and Human Rights Commission: Research Report no. 88. Available online (accessed 14/04/16).
  • DETINI (2016) Quarterly Supplement to the Labour Market Report October – December 2015 – Data Tables. Available online (accessed 22/03/16).
  • Hall, E. and Wilton, R. (2015) ‘Thinking differently about “work” and social inclusion for disabled people’. In Grover, C. and Piggott, L. Disabled People, Work and Welfare: is Employment really the Answer? Policy Press: University of Bristol, pp. 219-238.
  • HSCIC (2015) Measures from the Adult Social Care Outcomes Framework: England 2014-15, Final Release. Available online (accessed 13/04/16).
  • Meager, N. and Higgins, T. (2011) Disability and Skills in a Changing Economy. Available online (accessed 13/04/16).
  • NASCIS (2016) Social Care Data: ASC-CAR L1. Available online (accessed 13/04/16).
  • ONS (2014) All Employees - ASHE: Table 1 (2014, revised). Available online (accessed 14/04/16).
  • ONS (2016a) Labour Market Status of Disabled People: AO8. Available online (accessed 13/04/16).
  • ONS (2016b) UK Labour Market: March 2016 (Statistical Bulletin). Available online (accessed 13/04/16).
  • Roulstone, A., Harrington, B. and Kwang Hwang, S. (2014) ‘Flexible and personalised? An evaluation of a UK tailored employment support programme for jobseekers with enduring mental health problems and learning difficulties,’ Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, 16(1): 14-28.
  • SCLD (2015) Learning Disability Statistics Scotland, 2014. Available online (accessed 13/04/16).
  • StatsWales (2015) Summary of Economic Activity by Area and Disabled Status, from April 2013. Available online (accessed 22/03/16).
  • Watts, R., Harflett, N., Robinson, C. and Greig, R. (2014) The Use of Personal Budgets for Employment Support. Report by NDTi (National Development Team for inclusion). Available online (accessed 13/04/16).

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