Caroline Nokes MP joins Royal Mencap Society in celebrating Learning Disability Week supporting call to increase apprenticeships and employment opportunities

Caroline has supported a call from learning disability charity Royal Mencap Society to improve employment opportunities for people with a learning disability.

 

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Attending Mencap’s Learning Disability Week reception in Parliament on Wednesday 21 June, Caroline spoke with people with a learning disability about the barriers they face when trying to find work, and heard from Disability Minister Penny Mordaunt MP and employers who all urged action to help more people into work.

Fewer than 6% of people with a learning disability known to social services are in paid employment, despite many more wanting to, and being able to work. When looking for a job, people with a learning disability face a number of barriers, all which contribute to the woeful employment figures. Barriers include: Confusing application forms, stressful interview processes, lack of in-work support and a lack of information and guidance for employers in understanding how to recruit and support people.

Research commissioned by Mencap for Learning Disability Week highlights the benefits of employing people with a learning disability, which include:

Rob Holland, Parliamentary Manager at learning disability charity Mencap, said:

“One of the biggest barriers to work facing people with a learning disability is the assumption that people with a learning disability are unable or unwilling to work. The reality is in fact the opposite, given the right opportunity, people with a learning disability can make valued employees.

“We regularly hear from employers we work with that having a colleague with a learning disability has brought a wealth of benefits to their business and workforce. With the new Government in place, there is a real opportunity to push forward with their commitment to get 1 million disabled people into work over the next 10 years. People with a learning disability must benefit from this drive so they too can experience the pride, independence and self-worth that comes with having a paid job.” 

Caroline said:

“During my tenure as a DWP Minister I had the opportunity to work with Mencap and other organisations in an effort to make employers ‘disability confident’ and ensure that the perceived barriers to employing people with learning disabilities that employers sometimes harbour are overcome.

Caroline with Emma and Tim

I was delighted to meet Tim and Emma, who both suffer from learning disabilities, to hear about their experiences in finding employment opportunities.” 

Zarah Osarobo has a learning disability and spoke at the event about the barriers she has faced when trying to find work:

“Even though I want to work, I have been to the job centre for many years without having any luck. The advisers sit me down in front of a computer and just leave me there. But I have a learning disability. I want someone to help me search for jobs and write applications. It would be great if employers understood more about learning disability and what support I need.” 

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What is a learning disability?

A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability which can cause problems with everyday tasks – for example shopping and cooking, or travelling to new places – which affects someone for their whole life.

People with a learning disability can take longer to learn new things and may need support to develop new skills, understand difficult information and engage with other people. The level of support someone needs is different with every individual. For example, someone with a severe learning disability might need much more support with daily tasks than someone with a mild learning disability.

Learning disability is NOT a mental illness or a learning difficulty. Very often the term ‘learning difficulty’ is wrongly used interchangeably with ‘learning disability’.