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Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging
Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging

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2 Finding a job

For many people with learning disabilities, the first hurdle to overcome is getting a job in the first place.

The image shows male hands operating a tablet with a job application page open.
Figure 1 Job application processes are often not accessible to people with learning disabilities

Often, people with learning disabilities are not encouraged to even apply for work. And if they do, it is not uncommon to hear stories of a person applying for a number of jobs, and never being called for an interview.

Activity 1 The barriers

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Why do you think people with learning disabilities are less likely to be put forward for jobs and/or shortlisted for interview?

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Research (Coleman et al., 2013; Roulstone et al., 2014; Mencap, 2018) shows that a number of factors affect people’s chances of securing a job. These include:

  • discriminatory attitudes towards learning disability
  • low expectations about people’s capabilities
  • a lack of suitable skills or qualifications
  • concerns about the level of support a person might need
  • lack of personalised and flexible employment programmes.

The Care Act 2014 (England) is clear about the requirement for commissioners to support disabled people to gain and retain work. Despite this, employment levels for disabled people are unacceptably low. It is even harder for people with more complex learning disabilities to find work.

People with learning disabilities and their families also believe that the benefits system can be a barrier to getting a job. This is because if the job doesn’t work out it can have an impact on benefits, which leaves people scared to take the job in the first place. It can make people scared to take a paid job in case it doesn't work out, which can have an impact on benefits.

It is also important to acknowledge that for some people with learning disabilities, the ambition of paid work may be unrealistic and not what they or their families want.