This week (9 to 15 November) marks Learning Disability at Work Week, calling on employers to think differently about who they hire.
In March, almost overnight, the UK workforce and landscape changed in a manner nobody could have predicted. Gone were the long, crowded commutes, bustling offices and general life tied to nine to five working.
Instead, we all went home, switched on our computers, tuned into online conferences and adapted – after all, we’ve all proved it can be done.
Now, learning disability charity Mencap is calling on employers to think differently on who they hire to make the future workplace environment more inclusive and diverse.
GET THE CHANCE
“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,” explains Mark Capper, head of development in the lifestyle and work team with Mencap.
“They just need a chance to show they can do it.”
The pandemic has highlighted the invaluable contribution people with a learning disability and/ or autism can make as hardworking and valued employees.
During Learning Disability at Work Week, Mencap is asking for the changing workplace landscape to open the doors to an untapped talent pool of people with a learning disability and/or autism.
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.
Noel has a learning disability and works as a facilities officer at Islington Council in London. As lockdown started, Noel’s job – which focused on supporting people in the office at Islington Town Hall – changed, but he adapted and began helping out in other ways by preparing food packets to distribute to food banks through Islington.
“I wanted to do this. It kept me active and productive. I’m a very helpful person. I like helping people out, that’s my skill,” enthuses Noel.
Another keyworker Katie* worked in the NHS throughout the pandemic. Katie’s role involves cleaning so her workload increased and everything in the hospital changed.
Katie explains: “It might be hard but I appreciate having a job. I like talking to the doctors and learning new things from other people.”
Despite the wonderful contributions Katie, Noel and thousands of other workers with a learning disability and/or autism make to businesses, but many people are still excluded from paid employment.
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.
Noel continues: “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.”
However, this Learning Disability at Work Week, Mencap is highlighting their employment programmes to help people develop their employability alongside helping people to find work placements.
Mencap is also inviting employers to find out how they can open their doors to people with a learning disability and/or autism this Learning Disability Work Week.
The charity can support with everything from making application processes more accessible through to providing job coaches, ultimately helping to open opportunities for this untapped talent pool.
*Some names have been changed