Angela Buxton, Director of People for learning disability charity Mencap, discusses Learning Disabilities Work Experience Week and supporting workers with learning disabilities.
Tell me about Learning Disabilities Work Experience Week.
Learning Disability Work Experience Week is a nationwide scheme run by Mencap and Inclusive Employers. Working with companies all over the country, the week works to get people with a learning disability experience within a working environment, to help them find paid work in the future.
Only two out of ten people with a learning disability are currently in work, despite eight of ten being able to work.
Work creates independence and confidence. It is a vital part of any person’s life, and should be an opportunity open to everyone.
What can HR do to support workers with learning disabilities in the workplace?
Modern HR is all about making work meaningful, purposeful and fun so we can attract and keep talented people. Many people with a learning disability never get to experience this because organisations may think they can’t be as effective in a role as someone who does not have a learning disability.
To change this HR teams need to be visionaries, breaking down old attitudes that might persist in an organisation, or raising awareness of wider societal challenges that exist and how all organisations within a community or country need to be a part of addressing those challenges.
It starts with a belief in the potential in all people. Once that initial step is taken, organisations like Mencap and Inclusive Employers can offer continual support.
What are the benefits, from your experience, of a diverse workforce?
Each year’s work experience week always sees a really positive reaction from the employers who take part; many of them will go on to take part the following year, and we always see some of the people being placed being offered part- or full-time paid work. It is only a week but the benefits are huge and the companies that take part all talk very positively.
A diverse workforce comes with a raft of benefits, not least with employee engagement and workplace morale. In a period in which many sectors struggle to fill vacancies, this is an untapped resource and, if you’re prepared to think a bit more flexibly about job design and support, it makes economic sense to look beyond the traditional pool of candidates.