GUEST BLOG – “We want to work for you!”

“We want to work for you!” – myth busting for employers

Employers may not be aware of the skills and strengths employees with a disability can bring, or the support they can get to make the workplace more accessible. It’s time to bust the myths, says CAMERON SMITH of the Scottish Commission for People with Learning Disabilities (SCLD)

My name is Cameron Smith. I am 25 years old.  I come from Thorntonhall in South Lanarkshire and I have a learning disability. I also have dyslexia and dyspraxia. 

I am currently employed with the Scottish Commission for People with Learning Disabilities (SCLD) as a Development Worker. Before I started my employment with SCLD, I completed an internship with Project SEARCH, which is a programme that helps people with learning/intellectual disabilities into employment.

The internship consists of a college year in Scotland and is based on work placements and time in the training centre. I worked in a variety of departments in Hairmyres Hospital. I enjoyed this and learned a lot and developed my skills. In February 2014, I was successful in getting a job in SCLD and left Project SEARCH.

The support I received in Project SEARCH and SCLD was very helpful to me. Without my Project SEARCH experience, I would not have the skills and confidence I have today. In my job in SCLD I have gone from being an Admin Assistant to an Events and Information Assistant, and recently took on the new role as a Development Worker. Some of the skills SCLD helped me with are working as part of a team, prioritising work, problem solving, communication skills​ and patience.

SCLD has also learned some skills from me, e.g. learning about dyslexia and dyspraxia, and how to support someone with a learning disability in the workplace – including what’s available to employers, for example Access to Work​ (see below for more information on this). I am also the first person my colleagues come to when they have any problems with their computers and technology.

However my story is rare among people with learning/intellectual disabilities. Many people with learning/intellectual disabilities face a lot of difficulties finding and starting work: a recent report by the Fraser of Allander Institute (September 2020) says that the employment rate for adults with a learning/intellectual disability is estimated to be 7%. This figure is the same as SCLD’s Mapping the Employability Landscape report (August 2016). Learning Disability Statistics Scotland (LDSS) 2019 indicates that only 4.1% of people with learning/intellectual disabilities and autism known to local authorities are in employment.

These figures all derive from local authority services, and there is a high number of ‘unknowns’. It is likely therefore that the percentage of adults with learning/intellectual disabilities in employment may be slightly higher than reported.

The employment rate for the general population in Scotland is approximately 74% and the pan-disability employment rate is around 46%.

While it is difficult to be sure about the exact employment rate for people with learning/intellectual disabilities, what we can say with confidence is that the rate of employment for people with a learning/intellectual disability is lower than for other disabilities.

To raise awareness of employing people with learning/intellectual disabilities in the workplace, SCLD have been organising a series of employment webinars. We have hosted a couple of webinars so far and these have been very successful: people with learning/intellectual disabilities gave our own personal experiences of working and attendees have been really impressed with what we have said – some have never thought about employing someone with a learning disability!

You can see the webinars SCLD have run online. The most recent one, on 20 January, focused on highlighting the skills and attributes that people with learning/intellectual disabilities can bring to the world of work and business, and what employers can do to make recruitment processes and the workplace more inclusive and accessible. Click here to watch this.

You can watch the first webinar in this series, on employment, by clicking here.

If you have any questions about the webinars or the work SCLD is doing to support employers and people with learning/intellectual disabilities, please contact me at [email protected]

About Access to Work

Access to Work is an employment support programme to help disabled people start or stay in work. As well as supporting individuals, it can advise and support employers in making adaptations in the workplace – including things like adapting equipment, providing an interpreter or note taker, or involving a job coach. To find out more about Access to Work click here.

The Scottish Commission for People with Learning Disabilities’ (SCLD) vision is of a fairer Scotland where people with learning/intellectual disabilities live full, safe, loving and equal lives. For more information visit www.scld.org.uk.