On Wednesday the government published a long-awaited green paper seeking views on how we can halve the disability employment gap.
The preface to the green paper says that less than half (48%) of disabled people are in employment, compared to 80% of the non-disabled population.
What the green paper fails to acknowledge, however, is the fundamental division within the ‘disabled people’ group – that is, the distinction between the 1.5m people in the UK with learning disabilities or autism, and those with other disabilities.
Research shows that just 7% of people with a learning disability are in work. Yet there is only one specific mention of learning disability in this green paper.
The importance of employment extends beyond having an income; it is about fulfilment, development and good mental health. It allows people to set themselves goals and achieve aspirations. It is about having a life like other people.
Dimensions has demonstrated, through employment within the organisation and our supported employment service, that successful, long term employment for people with learning disabilities and autism is an achievable goal.
There are a number of key issues. The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions rightly highlighted in his conference speech that attitudes still need to change.
Employers may be reluctant to take on what they perceive as a risk. Traditional application processes rarely suit people with a learning disability or autism.
Opportunities to develop work readiness through training are rarely available. And support into employment is frequently required.