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Note: In the UK, the term of ‘Learning disability’ is used instead of ‘Intellectual disability’.
Finding work with a learning disability: Kevin & Andrew’s story
Finding a job can be difficult in the current financial climate, and if you have a learning disability, it can be even harder. Just 5.8% of people with learning disabilities are in employment, compared with 47% of the wider population with disabilities, and 80% of non-disabled people.
We found out about the stories of Kevin and Andrew, both visitors at Oakfield day service in Liverpool, who are fought against the odds to find a job they love.
Back in 2001, Kevin was given a person-centred plan – a way for people we support to plan what they want now and in the future – where he made it his goal to work in his local Tesco, the same branch he had done a job placement at when he was at college. He met up with the manager, and began to do voluntary work one day a week, which eventually progressed to two days a week. After a year of working at Tesco, they offered him a paid position.
“He enjoys stocking shelves and is very skilled in his job. We have visited the store several times,” said Veronica, former service manager at Oakfield day service. Kevin has been in paid employment ever since and works three 4 hour shifts a week, receiving the same benefits and holiday as other staff. “After 14 years, Kevin is still very happy and knows the job.”
Andrew was also given a person-centred plan in the same year, where he said his goals were to learn about photography, become more independent and find a job. The first opportunity he was given was a job at a hotel launderette one day a week. He was given travel training, which enabled him to use public transport from home to work. Andrew worked there for two years, until the hotel’s closure.
After this, he began to attend college on days when he wasn’t visiting Oakfield, and in 2006 found another job at a hotel launderette. Unfortunately, this job was short-lived, and only lasted four months due to a seizure he experienced while working.
This didn’t deter Andrew from searching for new opportunities. In 2008, with the help of his carer, he approached the Liverpool FC shop at Anfield Stadium, and secured some voluntary work for four hours a day, two days a week.
“He loves volunteering, loves the camaraderie with his colleagues and has met many of the Liverpool players and managers,” said Veronica. Andrew is supported by a regular team of workers at the store, receives staff discount on his purchases and is proud of his position. His confidence and social skills have also increased enormously since his employment.
Both Kevin and Andrew continue to go to Oakfield day service to improve their learning, do some sports and meet with friends. Veronica and her team have also made sure that their support is there when they need it. “We regularly check that they are happy and that there are no issues at work.”
These two stories show the real benefits supported employment can have for people with learning disabilities: from transforming independence and increasing confidence, to making new friends and contributing to the workplace. Through more person-centred plans and supported employment schemes, we hope that stories like Kevin and Andrew’s will become more common.