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Should we Support More People with Learning Disabilities to get a Job?
Only 7% of people with learning disabilities are currently in paid employment, while 65% of people with learning disabilities want to work. (NHS Learning Disability Toolkit, NHS England, 2015)
We think there should be more work done on finding people with learning disabilities jobs.
As well as the obvious reason why work is a good thing for people – they get paid money – there are a number of reasons why working can improve quality of life…
Work improves self-esteem
“Work is central to individual identity, social roles and social status” (Is Work Good for Your Health and Wellbeing? - Waddell and Burton, 2006.) My Life My Choice members find that not working can lead to prejudice by others which erodes their self-esteem. Kevin says, “I feel ashamed because people call me a benefit cheat.”
Working can improve health
“There is strong evidence that unemployment is generally harmful to health, including higher mortality; poorer general health, long-standing illness, limiting longstanding illness; poorer mental health , psychological distress, minor psychological/psychiatric morbidity; higher medical consultation, medication consumption and hospital admission rates.” (Is Work Good for Your Health and Wellbeing? - Waddell and Burton, 2006.)
Between 25 and 40% of people with learning disabilities also suffer from mental health problems (http://www.learningdisabilities.org.uk/help-information/Learning-Disability-Statistics-/187699/). This could be reduced if less people with learning disabilities were unemployed.
Working helps social inclusion
Work “promotes full participation in society” (Is Work Good for Your Health and Wellbeing? - Waddell and Burton, 2006.) It also means people meet more people. My Life My Choice member Andy says “I enjoy my job, especially when I meet other people.” Kevin says he misses his favourite job – working at a leather factory – because it “used to be like one big family.”
What needs to happen to help more people with learning disabilities get jobs?
Benefits give people much needed support, but we think they need to be more flexible. Many of our members do not work for fear of losing their benefits. For example, when Shaun was asked “Why don’t you have a job?” he said “Because it’s difficult to get around the benefits system.” He went on to explain “You are not allowed to earn more than a small amount each week when you are on ESA.”
Another My Life My Choice member, Paul, does not have a paid job because having one would mean that his wife would lose her disability benefits. Instead he volunteers almost full time at My Life My Choice.
What would help people like Shaun and Paul is an extension of the ESA programme of permitted work, so you could work for a charity and earn up to £107.50/week without your benefits being affected.
Education and Support for Employers
We think employers should receive financial incentives from the Government to employ people with learning disabilities. This would help pay for the necessary training and support.
People with learning disabilities are capable of doing a job with some support. As Andy says: “I hate the way people say that people with learning disabilities aren’t good for the job. We prove we can do a job. You take My Life My Choice, an organisation run by people with learning disabilities. Look what we do!”
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