Ahead of the release of the VODG report, ‘Closing the Disability and Employment Gap’, United Response’s chief executive Tim Cooper, spoke at the Learning Disability Today exhibition in London about closing the disability employment gap.

It is widely acknowledged that there is a steep disability employment gap and the report by the VODG earlier this week confirmed that less than half of disabled people (48%) are in work compared to 80% of their non-disabled peers.

Tim raised this issue in his presentation at LDToday and by drawing attention to the wider learning disability employment gap, which sees only 5.8% of people with a learning disability in work and 16% of people with autism in full-time paid employment.

In his speech, Tim addressed the Government’s ambitious goal to halve the disability employment gap and said that, in order to achieve it, the Government, providers and staff all need to reassess whether they are doing enough to break down barriers to employment.

Tim said: “One in two disabled people are out of work, compared to the 80% of non-disabled people who are in employment. Even more shockingly less than 6% of people with a learning disability are in paid work.

“We welcome the Government’s commitment to close the Disability Employment Gap, but it’s vitally important that the Government also commits to closing the ‘double gap’ that people with a learning disability face.

“This will require further investment, but the economic and social returns from this will undoubtedly reward both the Exchequer and our society.”

He addressed the fact that more investment and a change employers’ attitudes is needed to get over a million disabled people into work.

Tim said: “We need to think differently about employment. Many employers assume that people with learning disabilities are unable or do not want to work. We need to turn things around and start from the presumption that everybody is employable.” 

United Response has successfully supported people with learning disabilities and autism into work through targeted supported employment schemes and social enterprises which develop work-related skills.

One example which featured in the VODG report is of an extensive training programme which currently supports 42 people in York. The Training, Employment and Consultancy covers everything from IT courses to tips on self-presentation, communication and CV writing. Crucially, jobseekers are encouraged to explore work and training options that suit them.

“It’s all about giving people a fair chance,” said Tim

Tim was joined at LDToday by Kayleigh, a woman who United Response has supported into work.

Kayleigh acted out her journey into employment, which began with her feeling as though there was no reason to get up in the morning.  With the right support from United Response, she was able to work on her CV and interview skills and succeeded in getting a job at her local YMCA.

Kayleigh and her support worker described how having a job has transformed Kayleigh’s life, improving her confidence and giving her greater independence.

United Response urges the Government to recognise the benefits of employment for everyone in society and use its new Work and Health Programme to implement solutions which will break down the barriers preventing people with learning disabilities from accessing work.