It is time employers realised the benefits of employing young people with learning disabilities

with Aimee Mann of Entrust Care Partnership CIC

At Special Needs Jungle we love hearing about positive initiatives that are going on that more people need to be aware of. Today, we have got Aimee Mann exploring employment opportunities for young people with learning disabilities and/ or autism, and her role within Entrust Care Partnership CIC who are trying to educate industries about the benefits of hiring disabled candidates.

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Pathway to Employment Initiatives

In the same way that standardised tests and exams don't offer the opportunity for everybody to shine and show their potential, standard forms of recruitment can also create similar barriers to hiring the best people for the job.

In a previous life, I worked as a recruitment consultant for big brand businesses looking to appoint marketing professionals within the FMCG and Leisure sectors. Although my colleagues and I met every single candidate, taking time to get to know them and what their skills were, we knew there were some boxes we just had to tick before even sending a cv through to a potential employer. Often, we were asked only to share potential candidates who had a 1st from a red brick university. So many times, I met excellent and talented candidates from overseas or with lived experience that simply couldn’t apply for the job in hand because they didn't go to the ‘right’ University. I always felt many of our clients were missing out on such talent. 

In my role now as Employment Development Manager for Entrust Care Partnership C.I.C, running the Pathway To Employment initiative, we help support young people with a Learning Disability to train and upskill within our Warwickshire Community Cafes and our online learning courses. I see the same challenges but with different obstacles. 

The benefits

We believe that educating businesses, big and small, on the benefits of employing Neurodivergent people and those with a Learning Disability, is key to making the changes needed for them to see the invaluable contributions people can make to society. 

Mencap explains that, ‘People with a learning disability can make great employees! Generally, they have lower sickness levels and stay in entry level jobs longer so can save employers money on recruitment. Many employers also report that their staff team morale increases as a result of working with their colleagues with a learning disability.’

As many of the workforce, who happen to have a Learning Disability, stay within their roles and with their employers for longer, retention is increased and money saved on recruitment and training. 

Companies also need to ensure they are compliant with the Equality Act 2010. Employing people with disabilities helps to make sure this happens. Employers should also look at the Disability Confident Campaign. Once committed, employers receive a certificate of recognition plus government support. You can check out the Disability Confident Scheme here

Another key benefit to employers is that public image is increased in a positive light. 77% of the public think more highly of businesses that make the extra effort to employ people with a disability. Inclusive employers promote a healthy public response.

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The challenges

There are many examples out there of the challenges faced and the high number of unemployed but I also think it is essential to turn focus to positive news stories for inspiration. A book I would highly recommend to all employers, people with a Learning Disability, their families and medical and care professionals is Made Possible, Edited by Saba Salman. The book shares success stories by eight people with Learning Disabilities - in their own words. The essays help to share some of what society misses out on by overlooking the 1.5 million people in the UK today, who happen to have a Learning Disability. Only 22% of Autistic Adults are in paid employment and around 6% of adults with a Learning Disability, known to their Local Authority in England are in paid work. The figures will cross and blur because Autism is not a Learning Disability, however, people with this diagnosis might also have a learning disability. As more data is collected, we will have a clearer idea where the challenges lie and where support and improvements can be made.

Appointing candidates who are Neurodivergent and/or have a Learning Disability can take a little more effort, a little more support than usual and more thought in matching skills to requirements but the long term benefits definitely outweigh the additional work it might take to find the right person for the right job. There are a number of companies, charities and social enterprises out there striving for similar goals as we are on our Pathway to Employment initiative. Something we also provide is ongoing support to the employer to ensure a smooth transition and settling period. Employers don’t always have to do it alone. There is actually quite a lot of support out there to help make this step change and together we can make a paradigm shift for a more positive experience and an inclusive workforce. 

Aimee Mann is a Mum, an advocate for SEN Parents and Children and the Employment Development Manager for Entrust Care Partnership C.I.C, a charitable Social Enterprise supporting disabled children, young people and their families. Their Pathway to Employment supports Young People with a Learning Disability to gain paid employment. 

Aimee’s oldest son, Freddie, has a Severe Learning Disability and a rare de novo genetic condition. Helping young people to find their purpose and enjoy being part of their local communities in paid employment is a cause close to her heart. 

aimeemann@entrustcarepartnership.org.uk

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