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Get a Job?
This week’s Conservative Party Conference focused some attention on ways to reduce the number of young people under 25 who were seen to be opting for a life on benefits. David Cameron’s speech featured the sound bite; “…… we should give young people a clear, positive choice: Go to school. Go to college. Do an apprenticeship. Get a job.”
Of course we should give people a clear, positive choice. Mr Cameron was emphasising the ‘positive’ here – from a menu of life choices including education, training, and employment. But as critics have pointed out, these positive choices are not readily available to everyone.
In 2010/11 it was estimated by The National Audit Social Care Intelligence Service (NASCIS) that only 11% of adults with a learning disability were in any form of paid employment. The majority of these were in part time work of less than 30 hours per week.
What are the employment opportunities for this group of people? In 2009 you may recall ‘Valuing Employment Now’, a Government employment strategy that outlined a mission to increase employment by 2025 with a range of interventions including awareness raising, better training, the increased use of personal budgets and the inclusion of work opportunities in personal development plans. It promoted the development of job coaching and described the ways that this could be helped and funded through the Work Choice or Access to Work schemes.
Work Choice is a voluntary support initiative that can provide help to disabled people to get and keep a job. Clients are interviewed to establish their needs and requirements for a range of assistance in training, confidence building, interview coaching and so forth. https://www.gov.uk/work-choice
Access to Work is a funding grant to help with things like travel and transport costs, specialist equipment and translation or interpreter services. This is, however, only available to those already in paid employment and is restricted in the case of those on some state benefits. https://www.gov.uk/access-to-work
For those people who might be contemplating setting up on their own, the excellent Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities ‘In Business’ project gives advice for people to start or work towards becoming self-employed. The project developed a number of guides and tools to help with information, including workshops and advice on finance, business planning and marketing. http://www.learningdisabilities.org.uk/our-work/employment-education/in-business/
Finding work is tough for many people today and it is simplistic to suggest the availability of benefit support provides people an alternative lifestyle choice. For people who are working hard to be valued, to be included in our society, that sort of message is unhelpful. For many people that we support, positive choices are few and far between. They need additional help to even consider entering the labour market; not just the help some of these initiatives provide, but essentially the backing of those who support them to actively seek the opportunities out there.