The three of us all work or volunteer for the charity CHANGE. We believe in proper paid jobs and a proper living wage for people with learning disabilities. So does CHANGE.
When you work and you are no better off than when you were on benefits, that’s a crime. We have friends who got totally fed up with being on the dole and wanted a proper job. They got a job on minimum wage at a supermarket. But they found out when they got paid that they were worse off than before. ‘How can I live off this?’ they said. They had to pack their jobs in because they were no better off working 30 hours a week than when they were on benefits. They were frustrated. They were also being bullied by the people they worked with.
People in the wider community don’t expect much from people with learning disabilities. But we don’t want to do a tedious job that nobody wants to do. We want to be challenged, and we want to be respected in the job and not be bullied. We want to work hard, but we don’t want to be bored. If you are bored to death with the same job, day in, day out, you are not going to feel like a valuable asset to the work team.
We know people with learning disabilities who have been pushed into charity shops and do not get paid because they are on the Work Programme. They want a proper paid job but they are not listened to.
We all have different dreams and goals. We should be able to have a dream and a goal and have somebody to support us to reach that dream and aspiration.
Shaun has a paid job with CHANGE, and is paid to work three days a week. He is on a proper living wage, and has been working for CHANGE for 10 years. Before that he was working for a supermarket, where the pay was very low.
Craig volunteers for CHANGE one day a week, and his dream is to work in horticulture, with the right support.
Kenneth also volunteers at CHANGE and is one of the board members. His dream is to have proper, paid, part-time work in disability rights. He wants a job that guarantees him a proper wage and the support he needs.
If you tell a jobcentre that you want to do something different than working in a shop, they look at you funny. They need to talk to us about what kind of job we want. There should be more options for people with learning disabilities. Different jobs other than just shop work.
There should be more training of staff in colleges and universities to get them to understand that we have dreams and aspirations.
Companies need to work on staff attitudes because people are being bullied at work. They also need to communicate with staff who have learning disabilities in a way that is accessible to them. They really need to do that.
Another thing they can do is sort out bus passes. The government have said they are trying to get people with disabilities back into work. But the passes we have got do not start until 11.30am. And jobs usually start at 8am or 9am. That is not really making it very fair if we want to get a job. If we could use those bus passes at any time, getting into work would be a lot easier.
All three of us want to have a life that everybody that hasn’t got a disability has got. We want to be treated equally. It’s all about our equal rights.
Shaun Webster, Kenneth Fletcher and Craig Bricklebank