Party conference season is now well underway, and United Response is using the opportunity to raise awareness of an issue that is incredibly important to many of the people we support – that of the employment gap facing people with learning disabilities and/or autism.

At our fringe event at Labour Party Conference today, we will be highlighting the facts that although many people with learning disabilities and/or autism want to and are able to work, only 7% of people with learning disabilities and 15% of people with autism are currently in employment. This compares with 46% of people with disabilities generally and 76% of the population as a whole.

On the panel at our fringe event

United Response’s director of policy and communications Diane Lightfoot will be discussing the work that United Response is doing to try and change this; we are successfully supporting people with a range of disabilities to take steps towards finding work, including people with profound and complex needs.

A survey carried out among United Response’s supported living and outreach services revealed that 29% of respondents – including many with complex needs – are currently engaged in some form of work-related activity, as part of their everyday support, and a further 23% said they would like to work.

Diane will be joined on the panel by our news correspondent David Allkins, who experienced difficulties in finding work, but who is now in employment with help from United Response. David, who has Asperger’s syndrome and communication difficulties, left university with a BA Hons in Combined Studies and never thought that finding work would be difficult. He will speak about what he feels could be done to make having a job both an aspiration and a reality for more young people with learning disabilities.

Also on the panel is Kate Green MP, Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities (and former Shadow Minister for Disabled People), as well as ambassador for greater employment opportunities for people with learning disabilities, Kay Allen OBE.

The issues on the agenda

United Response’s fringe event, entitled ‘Supporting people with learning disabilities into employment’, will be taking place today from 12.30pm to 2pm in the Preston Room of the Hilton Brighton Metropole Hotel.

In particular, United Response will be using the fringe event to highlight:

1. The need for more targeted pre-employment support programmes to be made available – particularly for people with complex needs, who often fall outside of the remit of existing programmes. 

2. The importance of raising aspirations among young people with learning disabilities and/or autism and their families, and ensuring that the ‘presumption of employability’ is at the heart of all support offered.

3. What ‘reasonable adjustments’ look like for people with learning disabilities in the workplace and how employers can be helped to make them.

Follow the event as it happens

To follow the debate at our Labour Party fringe event, keep an eye on our Twitter feed @unitedresponse or search for the hashtag #makeworkareality.

Also keep an eye out this week for our post-event Storify and blog, as well as news correspondent David Allkins’ upcoming report on the party conferences.

Sarah Bartlett, head of press and appeals.