A new government pilot scheme aims to help people with learning difficulties use part of their council support packages to find paid jobs.
Jobs First, being trialled in seven local authorities across England, will test different ways to help people use part of their personal budgets to pay for the support they need to find permanent paid work.
Phil Hope, the care services minister, said: “I’ve met many people with learning disabilities who would love the chance to get a job but too often they find it incredibly hard to overcome the barriers they face.”
He said the scheme – one of the projects set out last year in the government’s Valuing Employment Now learning difficulties jobs strategy – would “improve the effectiveness of support” and help “many more” people with learning difficulties secure “real jobs and careers”.
Less than 10 per cent of adults with learning difficulties known to councils in England are in paid jobs.
The scheme will run in Northamptonshire, Essex, the London borough of Newham, Leicester, Oldham, North Tyneside and Herefordshire.
Newham council will work with 20 people with “moderate to severe learning disabilities” and hopes to help more than half move towards paid work of at least 16 hours a week.
The council will support people to buy the services they need to gain paid jobs, and to prioritise work within their support plan, and will work with Newham Coalition of Disabled People to “coproduce” its approach.
A Newham council spokeswoman said: “Many people with learning disabilities still do not feel work is a realisable goal.
“Most Department for Work and Pensions schemes are not currently suited to the needs of individuals with complex needs, so utilising more personalised support would be a great help in getting people the right kind of support for their employment goals.”
Northamptonshire County Council plans to help 20 people with learning difficulties find work by using their personal budgets to pay for job coaches to help with applications or support in the workplace.
Members of Central England People First, a Northamptonshire organisation run by people with learning difficulties, said they thought using personal budgets to pay for hands-on support at work might be a good idea.
But they were concerned that people who found jobs would lose benefits, and pointed out that finding work and keeping it was difficult for everyone in the current economic climate and would be even harder for people with learning difficulties.
They said the only jobs available were voluntary positions in charity shops.
10 March 2010