Sharon Allen, Chief executive of Skills for Care, and I have decided to do a joint blog about employment for people with learning disabilities as it’s a subject we both feel very strongly about.
I think that helping a person to get a job can often be the single most important outcome that we can help them achieve. Not only does it give them more money, it enhances their social network and, in my experience, most importantly has a massive effect on their self-esteem.
In CMG we have an active programme of supporting and encouraging people to get into employment. Sometimes this requires us having to be quite creative to find the right match between an individual’s skills and aspirations and a suitable employment opportunity. Every month for a number of years we have tracked the number of people we support in both paid and voluntary employment. We find that voluntary employment can often be a very good stepping stone into paid employment. Charity shops in particular seem very welcoming of people with learning disabilities.
We also take our responsibility seriously as an employer. We’ve actively identified opportunities within our organisation to employ the people we support. This includes employing people as receptionists at our Head Office in Leatherhead, as administrators, cleaners, trainers and also as paid quality checkers. We also pay the members of our self-advocacy group, Campaign for Change, (They used to be known as our Service User Parliament but decided to change the name).
We also try to create a culture of celebration recognising people’s achievements in a wide range of areas, including employment. One of the most important ways we do this is through our annual ‘People’s Awards’ in which people we support receive awards in a range of different categories including health, sport, education and employment.
The following brief description of the winners of this year’s employment category will give you a feel for the sort of activities the people are supported to engage in:
First place was given to a young man who has been working at a very prestigious and traditional club in London, in the house keeping department. He was nominated because of his positive, enthusiastic and can do attitude towards his work. Since he started there his confidence has grown day by day.
Second place was given to one of CMG’s paid staff, he has a cleaning role and is said to be ‘a man on a mission’ whenever he is working. No one can get in his way until he has finished his jobs. His registered manager has said that this job has empowered him in many ways. He is more confident in socialising and communicating with others and his travel independence has increased.
Third place was given to another person employed by CMG. He has a care-taker role at Head Office and was nominated for his dedication and unswerving commitment to his employment. He is so enthusiastic whenever he is working. He is saving up his wages to buy something special for himself.
Employment is about so much more than just a wage. Whilst, getting paid for the work you do is important, employment also helps define who we are as a person, builds our social networks and is a significant element in whether or not society values us.
For people with a learning disability and/or autism a job can be the gateway to all of the above and a big boost to their personal self esteem.
Thanks to Peter both for sharing what CMG is doing to support people with a learning disability and/or autism into the workplace, which as he says is something we share a commitment to for all the excellent reasons articulated.
At Skills for Care, as the strategic workforce organisation for adult social care, we are starting our own journey towards employing people with a learning disability and/or autism, which can only be strengthened by our relationship with CMG. We know we have much to do and learn to make sure we can apply everything we have learnt from employers, and people with a learning disability and/or autism themselves.
From our work in the sector we know that employers working in social care can act as role models for organisations in the wider economy. They can show by example that we know the value that people with a learning disability and/or autism bring to our workplace.
To be good employers we have to recognise that our employees with a learning disability and/or autism might need additional support to make sure that they are able to do their job well at all times.
Skills for Care’s work on workforce productivity https://goo.gl/yf416j shows that there are five main factors associated with productivity. These are culture, leadership, employee wellbeing, learning and development and digital technology. All of these factors will apply to the employment of people with a learning disability and/or autism as well as for the whole workforce.
The culture of organizations needs to value the importance of each and every one of our employees – whatever their role (and perhaps status) in the organization is or their additional support needs are.
Leadership in organisations needs to show staff teams how people with a learning disability and or/autism make a positive contribution to organisational life. We need to find ways for people with a learning disability and or/autism to use their leadership skills.
Employee wellbeing for people with a learning disability and or/autism could include additional supervision, a different pattern of breaks, co-worker set-ups and help with accessing or understanding other employment benefits such as pensions and wellbeing initiatives. All of this well-being support must be done sensitively and discretely.
Learning and development needs to include everyone. Just because someone has a learning disability and or/autism doesn’t mean they can’t learn. Everyone’s preferred learning style is different whether you are disabled or not.
Digital technology in our organizations needs to work for everyone. We must never assume that someone with a learning disability and or/autism wouldn’t be able to use technology as part of their work contribution.
It’s not enough to give someone a job. As a responsible employer we need to support and empower our employers and the 1.45 million strong workforce, including learning disabled colleagues and/or colleagues with autism.