Last week United Response CEO, Tim Cooper, was invited to Number 10 Downing Street to talk about supporting more people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health problems into work.

Having a job gives us not just cash in our pocket, but helps define our sense of who we are and to boost our own confidence. At the heart of United Response’s approach is the belief that people we support are equal citizens who should have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

People we support tell us that the opportunity to go out to work and to earn, even if just for a few hours a week, is an important aspiration. We say that there should be a presumption of employability for everyone, regardless of their disability, unless proved otherwise.

Tim Cooper visits Number 10 Downing Street

Last week I was invited to Number 10 Downing Street to talk about this with Jean-Andre Prager, who is the Prime Minister’s Special Adviser for disability issues. We discussed the particular problems the Government has in supporting more people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health problems into work.

While more than half of disabled people are now in work, fewer than 1 in 10 people with learning disabilities known to local authorities have a job.

Government's proposals on employment for people with learning disabilities

Just over a year ago the Government set out its set out clear proposals on employment and career opportunities for people with learning disabilities. At United Response we are really pleased that one of the Pilot schemes to get more people we support into work is being delivered by United Response for York City Council.

We’ve managed to help over a quarter of people we support on the pilot scheme in York get into work and Jean Andre was particularly interested in hearing how our local Job Coaches worked with the council to help people who have not been considered capable of work before, get a job and enjoy the independence that this brings. We also discussed with him some positive changes for changes to the benefit system that would make it easier for people to move into paid employment, in particular to work more than 16 hours a week.

Personalised packages of employment support for people with learning disabilities

Jean Andre also told us about the Intensive Personalised Employment Support programme (IPS) announced by Government in December. Later this year, IPS will deliver personalised packages of employment support, to help even more people with learning disabilities move towards the work place. This is very encouraging and we’re looking forward to hearing further details next month as the Government continues to tackle the wider learning disability employment gap.

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