Government seeks to close work gap for people with learning difficulties


A new government strategy aims to find more “real jobs” for people with learning difficulties in England.
The Valuing Employment Now cross-government strategy will focus on efforts to “increase radically” the number of people with moderate and severe learning difficulties in work by 2025.
The strategy aims to close the gap between the percentage of those with moderate or severe learning difficulties in work, and the proportion of disabled people who have jobs (currently 48 per cent).
Only about 10 per cent of adults with learning difficulties who receive social services have any kind of paid job, and even fewer work more than 16 hours.
The strategy includes a wide range of measures across education, work experience, transport, personal budgets, staff training, job coaching and employer awareness.
Jonathan Shaw, the minister for disabled people, said the strategy was “ambitious”, had “widespread support” and aimed to “really enhance independent living opportunities for people with learning difficulties”.
But due to the recession, the strategy says there will be “little opportunity for new investment”, with the focus instead on “more effective use of existing resources”.
Shaw said 400 people with learning difficulties would secure jobs within the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which would show the department “can walk it as well as talk it”, with some jobs in ministers’ offices.
The strategy pledges to find more jobs elsewhere in the civil service, with the Cabinet Office working on ways to do this in the public sector and the Department of Health working to increase NHS job opportunities.
The strategy also aims to: produce guidance for all government departments on targeting people with learning difficulties in recruitment campaigns; improve careers guidance and skills preparation in schools and colleges; make the benefits system easier to understand; and ensure access to work is more flexible.
And the Office for Disability Issues is looking for organisations to pilot Project Search schemes. The programme provides a group of people with moderate or severe learning difficulties with a year-long series of supported work placements with an employer, and classroom tuition.
The learning difficulties charity Mencap welcomed the strategy and its cross-government endorsement, but said it was disappointing that the government could not yet set specific targets.
It said “tough targets, rigorous monitoring and mechanisms for accountability” were “absolutely imperative”, and “getting the allocation and implementation of specialist disability employment services right” would be crucial.

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