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Learning Disability Week 2011 (June 21-27)
Mark Yeoman, Deputy Director, Convergence Partnership Office for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
The numbers appear to be very clear – Mencap estimates that there are about one and half million people with learning disabilities in the country and only one in ten people with a learning disability are in employment. And the issue is stark - 65% of people with a learning disability want to work.
Compounding this mismatch is the impact on jobs, and the public spending on the provision of care and support services, of the biggest economic and financial crisis to hit the world economy for 100 years.
The term ‘learning disability’ is broad ranging encompassing several conditions in which people with a learning disability find it harder than others to learn, understand and communicate. This may affect the speed or method of learning. These difficulties can range across listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning or mathematical skills. Social support is often crucial in both helping success at school and achievements in later life.
Mencap has identified a number of key barriers which make it difficult for people with learning disabilities to access work. These include a lack of appropriate training, a lack of appropriate support to get into employment and in the workplace, and a lack of employers understanding about the people with disability and about the support that is available.
It was with these needs in mind that the European Social Fund (ESF) Convergence programme invested in Cornwall Works for Learning Disabilities which provides support to help people with learning disabilities to identify a route into work based on their individual skills and aspirations. The project has received ESF through the Jobcentre Plus co-financing plan with the contract held by Cornwall Council and managed through Cornwall Development Company. Frontline support is delivered through Cornwall People First, Brandon Trust, Cornwall Council Adult Social Care, Home Farm Trust and United Response. Partner organisations also work with families and carers so that they can all play a part in helping find a route into work and, crucially, provide post-employment support for the employer, employee and family alike.
Cornwall Works itself provides the strategic overview for all welfare to work provision, including both mainstream and European, to ensure all is integrated and focussed on the needs of the individuals. Cornwall Works identified a gap in support for people with learning disabilities that was fed into Jobcentre Plus who developed the blue-print Cornwall Works for Disabilities as part of their Co-financing plan for ESF Convergence
How successful has this package of individually tailored support been? The targets for the programme – set before the economic and financial downturn – have all been exceeded both for engaging with people and helping people into work, success indeed.
Support from local businesses is vital and the employer pack developed by Cornwall Works for Learning Disabilities has proved to be a vital tool. The Range in Truro won a Cornwall Works WISE Award in 2010 being commended for their positive approach to employing people with disabilities by focussing on their talent and ability.
Roselyn Coaches is another example - it took on Simon Fleet through Cornwall Works for Learning Disabilities – Andrew Stillwell Cox their training Manager explains “I’ve never met a guy with so much passion – he needs very little supervision. People over egg it with over supervision – it just needs a little care and understanding in tasking the job in hand.”
The Government is changing the welfare system to help more people move into work. This includes people with disabilities including learning disabilities. Although Cornwall Works for Learning Disabilities ends this month there are new mainstream opportunities though Work Choice and next month the Work Programme. Work Choice is designed to help people with disabilities whose needs cannot be met through other work related programmes. This might be because more specialised support is needed to find work or keep a job once started. This support is tailored to suit the needs of the individual – helping people achieve their full potential and greater independence.
Work Choice also ensures employers get the support they need to employ more disabled people.
If you would like more information about Work Choice for you, a fiend or family member then details are available from your local Jobcentre and information about all support and help to get into work is available from the Cornwall Works Hub – www.cornwallworks.org.uk or 01872 355015
What is abundantly clear from our experience across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly – and the numbers prove it -- is that it is never about labelling people or making blanket assumptions but it is all about recognising that every one of us has a range of strengths and weaknesses and it is our abilities that need to be maximised. And that people with learning disabilities make highly valued employees when given the right support, in the right place, at the right time.
Learning Disability Week:
Learning Disability Week is a week of national campaigning and awareness raising run by Mencap every year.