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

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Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging

5 Working with people with learning disabilities

In this course, you’ve heard a lot about the experiences of people with learning disabilities and their families.

Now you will turn to look in more depth at what it’s like to work with people with learning disabilities, and why people want to do it.

Box 1 The social care workforce in England in 2018

Most people who support people with learning disabilities are in the social care workforce, one characterised by low wages, poor working conditions and high staff turnover. Here are some key facts about the social care workforce in 2018:

  • Accounts for 1.6 million jobs.
  • A quarter of the workforce (25%) are on a zero-hours contract (335,000 jobs).
  • The staff turnover rate was 30.7%, equivalent to around 390,000 leavers in the previous year.
  • Many of these leavers move to other roles within the sector as 67% of recruitment is from within adult social care.
  • Workers had, on average, 8.2 years of experience in the sector.
  • The vacancy rate was 8.0%, equivalent to around 110,000 vacancies at any given time. The majority of these vacancies (76,000) were care workers.
  • A fifth of all workers (320,000 jobs) were aged over 55 years old.
  • The majority (82%) of the adult social care workforce were British, 8% (104,000 jobs) had an EU nationality and 10% (130,000 jobs) were of a non-EU nationality. 
(Source: Skills for Care, 2018)

Activity 9 The view of a support worker

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Kelly Edwards has worked with people with learning disabilities for over 30 years. She is employed as a support worker for a self-advocacy organisation, but is also a carer for people with learning disabilities who need one-to-one support.

Watch this film of Kelly Edwards talking about her job.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 13
Skip transcript: Video 13

Transcript: Video 13

KELLY EDWARDS
My role with Northamptonshire People First-- I've been there about nine years now, I think-- and that is office coordinator. And that is to help run the office and to support the members in running the organisation.
But I have been involved with people with learning disabilities since I was about 18, when my mum set up a residential home. And it was from a few of my mum's issues is that I met people from People First. And that's how I ended up working there.
I think the basics are that you need to care. You need to be very caring. And you need to care to make a difference for them. But you need to be patient. You need to be thick-skinned. You need to have a good sense of humour.
But I think they are the main skills you need, really. And I think a lot of the people I work with have taught me the rest of the stuff I've needed to know along the way.
Well, it's nice to see them achieve. It's nice to see that you're making a difference. And that's the main things, really, to see them happy.
The only issues were probably that have been low are our cuts to funding, seeing people lose support hours. And then the changes around benefits and things like that that have been really difficult for people to cope with over the last, I'd probably say, three or four years.
That's probably where the low points have been. But you know, we just try and get people sorted.
End transcript: Video 13
Video 13
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Complete the table below based on Kelly’s views:

Table 1 Supporting people with learning disabilities

The qualities and skills Kelly thinks are needed to do the jobWhy Kelly likes the jobWhat Kelly has found difficult about the job
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Words: 0
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Answer

Here are some of the things you might have noted down:

Table 1 Supporting people with learning disabilities (completed)

The qualities and skills Kelly thinks are needed to do the jobWhy Kelly likes the jobWhat Kelly has found difficult about the job
Being caringSeeing people achieveCuts to funding
Being patientMaking a difference to people’s livesSeeing people lose their support hours
Being thick-skinnedSeeing people happySeeing people struggle with changes to the benefits system
Having a sense of humour

You may have noticed that Kelly also said that people with learning disabilities have taught her most of what she needs to know to do the job well. Kelly enjoys her job and takes great pride in it. The challenges of the job that she describes are all related to wider social and political issues – cuts to funding and changes in the benefits system. What Kelly continues to like about her job is having the opportunity to work alongside people with learning disabilities, and supporting them to live the lives they want.

Good support is vital for people with learning disabilities. It’s crucial that great care is taken to recruit the right people to the job, to train them properly, and to give them good working conditions. This is a key challenge for the future.

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