The right to work for learning disabled Scots

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Maura Lynch explores a new road map for overcoming Scotland's shameful record in finding jobs for adults with learning disabilities

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10th October 2016 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

The Scottish Commission for Learning Disability (SCLD) recently published the first of a series of scoping reports on the lives of people with learning disabilities in Scotland.

With Mapping the employment landscape for people with a learning disability in Scotland report we prioritised employment because of the significant gap between the mainstream employment level of 73% and the learning disability rate between 7% to 25%. The arrival of new devolved powers to Scotland in April 2017 as make this particularly timely.

We talked to people with learning disabilities through our work with Young Scotland’s Got Talent, our consultations over Fair Work in Scotland and the numerous community consultation activity we undertake across Scotland. People with a learning disability tell us that they want to work and get the same access to opportunities the majority of Scottish citizens derive from employment.

Maura Lynch

Maura Lynch

The timing of this report is critical as the First Minister has pledged that the new Scottish social security agency will treat people with dignity and respect and tackle inequalities

Importantly, the report identifies the number of adults with a learning disability in Scotland potentially looking for work could be as many as 125,000 to 150,000 people.

The timing of this report is critical as the First Minister has pledged that the new Scottish social security agency will treat people with dignity and respect and tackle inequalities. The minister for employment and training, Jamie Hepburn, has announced two new funds Work First Scotland and Work Able Scotland, both aimed at providing employment support to disabled people from April 2017.

As new funds are distributed and services designed it’s important to have evidence on the success rate of both national and local programmes and identify what works.

What we don’t want to do is miss this critical opportunity. The report provides a series of recommendations to partners which target four key challenges. How we overcome the low expectations held by some parents, schools, colleges and employers is one of these. We also need to gather data more effectively, investing funding where people with a learning disability in Scotland secure both employment and support to develop in that job. This data can be used to invest in post-school funding for services that can deliver employment outcomes of 50% as detailed in the report.

It's also important to recruit and train job coaches that can support people with a learning disability into employment and throughout their careers. And job coaching has to be recognised as a profession that has quality standards that are monitored nationally.

SCLD wants national partners to work together to make sure the report has real impact and doesn’t stay on shelves. Partnership is vital to ensure that key agencies identify current and future resource issues required to implement the recommendations.

We want to see support for the development of strategic alliances across Scotland and beyond to achieve the targets highlighted in the report and the strategic objectives in the Scottish Government's Keys to Life ten year learning disabilty strategy

This kind of partnership work can also inform the Scottish Government’s thinking about the future needs of people with a learning disability in the workforce. National partners can also influence national policy and practice both in terms of employability, education and training, but also in the setting of benefits allocation that will increase the number of people with a learning disability in Scotland working 16 hours or more and earning at least the minimum wage.

Mapping the employment landscape for people with a learning disability in Scotland was produced by the Training and Employment Research Unit at Glasgow University and Cambridge Policy Consultants.  

Maura Lynch is depute chief executive of the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability. Follow @SCLDNews on Twitter.