Employment challenges for people with learning disabilities

BBC Kyle and friends at graduationBBC

Yellow Submarine helped Kyle (left) find a job after graduating

A man with Down syndrome left South Africa to come to the UK because he thought there would be more job opportunities here.

Kyle Wood moved in with his family in 2019 and has been working in a restaurant in Faringdon, Oxfordshire, since September.

It comes after recent figures showed that only 4.8% of adults with learning disabilities and autism are employed in the UK.

But this is still better than South Africa’s employment rate for people with disabilities, which stands at around 1%.

Kyle and friends at graduation

Kyle was previously an intern at Oxfordshire-based charity Yellow Submarine

Securing a job has not only given Kyle new skills, but has also given him the opportunity to socialize with colleagues and be part of a working community.

“They helped me very well…I love my managers,” he said.

Kyle was a trainee for 18 months at Oxfordshire-based charity Yellow Submarine, which supports disabled people into employment.

After he graduated, the organization helped him find a suitable job and continued to provide him with support.

‘Challenge Perceptions’

The charity’s main focus is to help its trainees stay in long-term employment by encouraging employers to make simple adjustments in the workplace – known as reasonable adjustments.

But Rachael Blakey, Yellow Submarine’s adult programs manager, said: “I think employers are worried. They’re worried about saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing.

“They’re also concerned about the costs of making the adjustments.”

In 2016, the government launched the Disability Confidence Scheme in a bid to encourage more businesses to hire and retain disabled people.

There are currently 19,638 employers registered across the three levels of the initiative in the UK.

But Ms Blakey is concerned there are no measures in place to hold employers to account to ensure they are making the necessary adjustments.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “Disability Confident is designed to challenge perceptions and help businesses take productive steps to address the challenges some people face in finding and staying in work.

“An independent survey of scheme members in 2022 found that around two-thirds of employers reported that they had employed a disabled employee since joining the scheme and more than four in five reported that they were currently offering adjustments in place of work.”

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