How to introduce people with a learning disability into your organisation

Written by
Sarah Clark

06 Dec 2016

06 Dec 2016 • by Sarah Clark

The HRD perspective: Angela Buxton, people director, Mencap

Why I love what I do
The Mencap culture promotes being a better person as much as performing well, and is based around our core values: inclusive, trustworthy, caring, challenging and positive. I love the impact we have on the lives of people with learning disabilities, whether it’s challenging injustice or supporting people into employment.

Championing people
We created a learning disability advisory forum which directly advises our trustee board – and our talent programme has seen two employees promoted into high-profile roles within Mencap.

We approach talent in a more fluid way. HR puts too much faith in systems to churn out the most talented. I’d ban the competency-based interview. It’s a one-size-fits-all approach which fails to capture the real person in front of you.

The advantages 
It raises employee morale, job satisfaction and helps develop a workforce that is more aware of diversity and how to harness different strengths. You may also improve your vacancy and retention rates. If well-supported early on, people with a learning disability will be loyal, hard-working and conscientious. 

We’re here to help
Take on an employee (as part of a scheme such as Learning Disability Work Experience Week) and we can provide full support in advance. We’ll  raise awareness of learning disabilities within your organisation, and help ensure you have a good work-match with your employee. 

We also help reconstruct roles to help people perform better. One of our employees with a learning disability is one of the best public speakers, but struggles with written English. If the former is so good, why worry about the latter?    

Over time, we step back; we’ll always be here as a sounding board, but it’s important to allow you to build your own capability in managing a diverse team. 

Societal shift
There needs to be a shift in attitudes and behaviour. An important part is to see more people with a learning disability having careers. I’d like to see all people treated as individuals and move away from implementing an ‘initiative’ around this agenda, making it the ‘norm’. 

The employee: Vicky Hiles, front of house host, Land Securities at Trinity Leeds

Why I love my job
I’m never bored and there’s always something to do, I like meeting and helping customers.

My typical day
It’s different every day. I feel proud about doing a good job and love being at the centre of it and talking to the different customers.

Getting this job was a struggle 
There are barriers: completing job applications, looking on job websites and going for interviews knowing, deep down, you won’t get the job. The Job Centre was a joke. For me, it was important to do paid work to give me independence.

I’ve worked at Land Securities for just under two years – and secured my job after completing a work placement for Learning Disability Work Experience Week in 2014. It feels good to be part of the team. I’ve become a lot more confident.

My career highlights so far
Everyone has been friendly and helpful – we’re one big team! I’ve made lots of friends, and when people leave Trinity, we make  friends on Facebook and arrange catch ups.

Being nominated for Employee of the Year** was brilliant! I’m a hard worker, so I think that helps. Last Christmas, the management team gave me a certificate and a bottle of Champagne to congratulate me on how well I’ve improved.

Where I see myself in future?
I’d like to work my way up to supervisor. I want to be able to help people in the same position I was in.

**Vicky won ‘The Land Securities Community Employment Award 2016’ in October 2016 – she was chosen by the company’s employees nationwide.

The employer: Steven Wakelin, integrated services manager for Trinity Leeds (manager of Vicky Hiles)

When recruiting people with a learning disability 
It’s important to look at capability levels as well as putting in place appropriate safety measures, both emotional and physical. 

The advantages
Vicky Hiles is a great example, she’s good at what she does, goes beyond the call of duty, she’s quick to respond and no job is too small. Vicky works well under pressure, is a great team player and lives and breathes Trinity Leeds – she just has a passion for her job.

Champion inclusion 
Give people a chance, and let them get used to their working environment. Land Securities and Interserve (which both manage Trinity Leeds) have signed up to Learning Disability Work Experience Week again, to give more deserving individuals an opportunity to experience work.

The jobseeker: Vijay Patel, young ambassador, Mencap

What would be your dream job?
I’m looking for a full-time job. I’ve completed 100 job applications recently and had an interview a while ago, but was unsuccessful. I volunteer in an office for a charity at the moment and work one night a week in a pub. I like the office environment as it’s really friendly. It can be a bit busy but I can cope.

Why do you think it’s difficult to get a job?
Employers might see me as unsuitable because of my learning disability, but I believe in myself. Work placements can help people with a learning disability prove we can do these things. 

Tell us about your work placement 
Mencap helped get me the placement coming up, they told me about the role and what it’s like – they thought I would be good at it. There’s a lot of archiving and Excel, which I enjoy and am good at. I’m excited, it will be a chance to try new things. If I do well it could lead to a permanent job! 

**Read more about Vijay here.

Learning Disability Work Experience WeekAn initiative run annually by Mencap (this year it ran 7-11th November 2016, celebrating friendships and relationships), to help raise awareness of learning disability across the UK.

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