People with learning disabilities have a significant,
lifelong condition that started before adulthood, which affects
their development and means they need help to understand
information, to learn skills and to cope independently. Some people
with learning disabilities are also on the autism spectrum,
although individuals on the autism spectrum do not necessarily have
It is estimated that there are around 26,000 adults in Scotland
with learning disabilities who require support, out of which around
a quarter (25%) are in employment or training for employment. In
addition to the above figures, there are other adults in Scotland
(almost three times as many) who have learning disabilities and had
additional support needs whilst at school but are not currently
using statutory learning disabilities services.
Many people with learning disabilities say they want to
work, but face a number of barriers, including:
Lack of or low qualifications.
Lack of or little work experience
Skills deficiencies (e.g. difficulties with reading, writing
and remembering, difficulty following many instructions and lack of
independent living skills).
Employer attitudes/discrimination (employers often do not
understanding the type of work they can do and the support they
might need at work and do not want to take a risk with
Low expectations of people with learning disabilities in
Fear of losing benefits.
Lack of confidence and fear of being bullied.
Difficulties relating to transport.
Policies and Interventions
In 2010, the Scottish Government published '
A Working Life for all Disabled People: The Supported Employment
Framework for Scotland', outlining the government's
commitment to a more consistent, person-centred approach to
supporting disabled people who want to work. The Framework lists
the actions to be undertaken to raise awareness of the supported
employment model and enable more people in Scotland to take
advantage of this type of support. 'Working
for Growth, A Refresh of the Employability Framework for
Scotland' which was published in 2012, also reinforced
the government's commitment to supported employment. Subsequently
in 2013, 'The
Keys to Life: Improving Quality of Life for People with Learning
Disabilities,' the Scottish Government's strategy to
support individuals with learning disabilities was launched. It
re-emphasised the government's commitment to supporting people with
learning disabilities who want to work to be able to find work in
mainstream employment that matches with their skills.
Scottish Strategy for Autism recognises the need
for specialist employment provision for people with autistic
spectrum disorder and states that such provision should be
developed as resources become available. The strategy explains that
such provision would work to:
Develop specialist knowledge of the condition so that
appropriate support can be provided to secure a good
Provide tailored one to one advice, support and guidance that
puts the individual jobseeker at the centre and in control of the
Provide disability awareness to employers, enabling them to
value the qualities people with autistic spectrum disorder bring to
a job and understand the support required to make the job a
Employment support for people with a learning disability
mainly lies with Jobcentre Plus and with Work Programme providers.
For example, Disability Employment Advisers in Jobcentre Plus help
clients to find work or to gain new skills and also provide
information about disability friendly employers within their local
area. Other interventions include:
Work, programme which provides money towards a support
worker or for the cost of equipment or travelling to work. A number
of disabled people in employment have said they would not have been
in employment without the help of Access to Work.
Choice. Support under this scheme may include
training and skills development, confidence building and interview
Employment, where disabled people work with support from
colleagues and a job coach.
Residential training courses which cover a range of areas,
such as adapting to impairment (independent living skills) and
Raising awareness of the benefits of a diverse
'Place and train' approaches (such as supported
employment) are considered to be more effective than approaches
that try to upgrade an individual's skills before placing them in
The Equality Act
Act (2010) is the main piece of legislation that
addresses discrimination and inequality in the UK. It brought
together nine separate pieces of legislation into one. The majority
of the provisions came into force on 1 October 2010. The following
are the characteristics which are protected under the Equality Act
Marriage and civil partnership
Pregnancy and maternity
Religion or belief
The law prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination
relating to any of these characteristics and individuals who feel
they have been discriminated against on any of the above grounds
can bring an action in court against the perpetrator. The law also
prohibits victimisation of persons who have brought action against
a perpetrator or given evidence in connection with proceedings
under the Act.
The Act prohibits discrimination across a broad range of areas
including employment, the provision of goods and services to the
public and the exercise of public functions. In addition a Public
Sector Equality Duty came into force in April 2011. It assigned
public bodies (and others discharging public functions, such as
third sector organisations) the following duties:
Eliminating unlawful discrimintion.
Advancing equality of opportunity.
Fostering good relations.
Specific duties within the Act require fit-for-purpose
equality monitoring to be undertaken, at both national and local
levels. As a result, a number of listed public authorities in
Scotland are now required to publish a set of equality outcomes and
to report on progress every two years. The specific duties also
require the listed public authorities to undertake Equality Impact
Assessment of new or revised policies and practices and to consider
relevant evidence when making their assessments.
Foundation for People with Learning Disabilites (2013)
Thinking Ahead: Improving Support For People With Learning
Disabilities and Their Families to Plan For The
Hemmings, S. and Morris, J. (2004).
Employing People With Learning
for Learning Disability
People with Learning Disabilities
Summary Guide to Employment
Policy, Structures and Initiatives in Scotland -