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    Research highlights public attitude toward employing people with a learning disability

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    New research released today by charity Mencap to coincide with the launch of Learning Disability Work Experience Week reveals that 52% of the public say they would prefer to work for a company that employs people with a learning disability.

    This may be an indication of the direct affect the public’s attitude has on learning disability employment levels, with just 5.8% of people with a disability known to local authorities currently in employment.

    Mencap has produced a video that explores the public’s reactions when asked about working with someone with a learning disability. Despite some strong, outdated opinions, the majority of respondents were supportive of employment for people with a disability.

    The Mencap and Populus survey results revealed:

    • More than half (52%) of the public would prefer to work for a company that employed people with a learning disability
    • Just 4% said they would prefer not to, with the rest either unsure or not knowing
    • 62% of the public said they have never worked with someone who has a learning disability.

    In response, Mencap has announced the steps it feels the government needs to take to successfully achieve its manifesto commitment, including:

    • Improving access to apprenticeships
    • Growing the number of supported internships
    • Improving support for employers wanting to take on staff with a learning disability
    • Boosting the number of job coaches
    • Reform of the failed Work Capability Assessment, which continues to incorrectly assess people with a learning disability as being ‘fit for work’.

    Working with companies including The Guardian, Channel 4, McDonalds, the NHS, BBC and Wetherspoon’s, Mencap has helped provide work placements across the country for people with a learning disability.

    Jan Tregelles, Chief Executive of Mencap said: “This research and public reactions really highlights how a lack of understanding around what people with a learning disability are capable of is a crucial factor in the woefully low employment rates experienced by people with a learning disability.

    “It is however hugely encouraging that when made to think about the issue the public came out in overwhelming support towards employing people with a learning disability, but disheartening to see the outdated assumptions people still have around learning disability. It’s these assumptions that run through society that can make it so challenging for people with a disability to secure employment.

    “That’s why it’s important to open up a discussion around the fears and concerns that people have about working with somebody with a learning disability. By tackling this head on we can breakdown these barriers, which more often than not are far from reality. In fact, our experience with employers shows that employing a person with a learning disability has an overwhelming amount of benefits for a company; people with a learning disability tend to be more hardworking, take less sick days, boost overall employee morale and open up a whole new market of disabled customers.”

    Richard McKenna, Director of Inclusive Employers said: “Learning Disability Work Experience Week is not only a much needed opportunity for people with a learning disability to gain workplace experience, but it also offers companies the chance to maximise business potential through inclusion.”

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    Molly Dyson

    Former Editor – PA Life

    All stories by: Molly Dyson