On the surface of it this morning's Queen's Speech seems to offer very little for people with learning disabilities, despite increasing life chances for the most disadvantaged being billed as one of the key themes of the speech.

It will be interesting to see however how the needs of children with learning disabilities will be reflected in the proposed Education for All Bill and in particular whether the Government will use this as an opportunity to address some of the issues that young people with learning disabilities face when leaving school and looking to access employment. 

In the run up to the last general election, the Government made a pledge to halve the "disability employment gap", highlighting the low levels of people with disabilities in paid employment (46.7%) compared with working-age non-disabled people (80.3%). 

Last week United Response submitted evidence to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee inquiry into the progress made towards meeting this commitment. 

A wider ‘learning disability gap’

Primary amongst our concerns was the additional and steep learning disability employment gap which United Response believes must be addressed within wider policy.

Only 6.8% of people with a learning disability are in paid employment.

Successive Governments of all colours have failed to properly engage and tap the potential of the disabled workforce; but we believe that the figure for people with a learning disability who are in employment has remained static for 20 years.

United Response would like to see Government policy and employment support reflect a culture of presumption that people with high support needs can work and want to work, rather than an assumption that the opposite is true. Access to targeted employment support for young people with learning disabilities, delivered by specialist support employment providers is a key part of this. 

We are waiting to see details of how the new Work and Health Programme will help disabled people of all ages move towards the workplace, as well as a Government White Paper on this issue which will be published some time this year. We hope that new policy proposals in this area will reflect evidence and input from submissions to the Work and Pensions Committee enquiry.

Our Chief Executive, Tim Cooper, has written an article about what the government needs to do to cut the disability employment gap for Learning Disability Today to accompany our submission.

You can also download our submission to the Work and Pensions Committee page from the parliamentary website.  

Sarah Bartlett, head of press and appeals.