Can recruitment firms help close the disability employment gap?

Written by
Changeboard Team

14 Aug 2017

14 Aug 2017 • by Changeboard Team

Stop worrying, start engaging

One of the biggest challenges we face at Mencap when it comes to learning disability is to get the public to stop worrying and start engaging. The words 'learning disability' seem to bring up fears of saying the wrong thing or even worse feelings of pity and disgust. 

For the tiny fraction of people with a learning disability who are given the opportunity of a paid job, the same is true for the workplace.

The Government doesn’t record accurate data on the number of people with a learning disability in paid work, however available figures suggest just 6% are in employment, a figure that’s in decline. This is woeful, and besides forcing people with a learning disability into a life reliant on benefits and isolation, employers are also missing a huge opportunity.

Mencap’s employment teams have worked with hundreds of employers over the years and supported thousands of people with a learning disability to find work – from law firms to florists. People we’ve supported have gone to win employee awards and become valued members of staff. 

Taking steps to break the fear among employers

Employers, without fail, tell us the same thing every time – that taking on staff with a learning disability has brought with it huge benefits that they never would have envisaged. This is the message that our new partnership with PageGroup is founded on.

As part of Learning Disability Week, Mencap wants to break down the misconceptions employers may have and replace them with the reality. We’ve commissioned a research review which backs up much of what we know – that staff with a learning disability can lower recruitment costs by proving to stay in jobs longer, have fewer sick days; that employees report improved staff morale and that there are significant reputational benefits from a public that would prefer to give their business to companies employing disabled staff.

Despite the huge successes we’ve had working with employers, getting this message across isn’t easy. The key is breaking down that initial fear. Once that’s gone and employers have taken the step to give someone with a learning disability a job, that initial fear and awkwardness disappears and they are more open to doing the same again. As one of the UK’s leading recruiters, PageGroup can help make a lasting impact here.

In Scotland, PageGroup is partnering with Mencap’s sister organisation ENABLE Scotland to provide employment training opportunities that support young people who have a learning disability to get ready for work.

Mencap & PageGroup partnering to educate employers

As part of our partnership, Mencap and PageGroup will be running skills-sharing workshops where expert recruitment advisors will get to share their advice with jobseekers who have a learning disability, giving them added help in terms of CVs and interview techniques. But we want to go much further than this and help PageGroup raise awareness among their employer contacts about how to make applications more accessible and get employers understanding that employing people with a learning disability is not the risk many believe.

I’ve worked for and alongside people with a learning disability most of my career. Getting a job and becoming independent is something many take for granted, but that people with a learning disability dream of. It’s rare that a social issue makes moral and commercial sense – but we have one in getting more people with a learning disability into work. I would give employers my word – you will not regret taking this ‘risk’ and will open up a whole new talent pool in doing so.

Olly Watson, managing director at PageGroup:

Our partnership with Mencap and ENABLE Scotland not only aims to fund services for people with a learning disability, but also to raise awareness of the charities’ employment programmes. Our pledge to volunteer our time as recruitment professionals will provide people with a learning disability with the necessary skills they need to get a paid job, whether that be CV skills training, or interview technique tips.

Mencap and ENABLE Scotland want a world where people with a learning disability are valued equally, listened to and included. As recruitment professionals, we know that securing and holding a successful job can provide any individual with the confidence and happiness they need and deserve.

Volunteering and fundraising with Mencap and ENABLE Scotland over the next 12 months is our opportunity to help these organisations achieve this goal and I look forward to seeing great results.