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 learning
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 them).
- Low expectations of people with learning disabilities in
- Fear of losing benefits.
- Lack of confidence and fear of being bullied.
- Difficulties relating to transport.
- Poor health.
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
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.
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
- Develop specialist knowledge of the condition so that
appropriate support can be provided to secure a good job.
- 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:
- Access to 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 employment.
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
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
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 discrimination.
- 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.