Employment gap for adults with learning disabilities reaches record high

The employment gap between adults with learning disabilities and the general population is at a record high, figures have revealed.

While UK employment is at its highest ever level, the charity Mencap said the disparity in employment rates for people with learning disabilities showed they continue to “face many barriers”.

The latest Public Health England (PHE) data compared the percentage of working age people with learning disabilities who are in paid employment with that for the population as a whole.

The figures show 75.6% of the working age population was in employment in 2018-19, while the rate was 5.9% for adults with a learning disability.

The gap of 69.7 percentage points is the widest since comparable records began in 2011-12.

The figures cover people aged 18 to 64 with learning disabilities who were known to a local council during the period, while those for the wider population include people aged 16 to 64.

Mark Capper, head of development at Mencap, said the figures were “really disappointing”.

He said: “Despite the general population’s employment rate rising over the years, the employment rate for people with a learning disability has remained stubbornly low.

“People with a learning disability can work and want to work, and with the right support they can make really fantastic employees.

“But they face many barriers, often falling at the first hurdle as a result of inaccessible application forms.

“Small reasonable adjustments in the workplace can help open up doors to people with a learning disability who then go on to become committed employees.”

The largest regional employment gap last year was seen in the South West at 72.9 percentage points.

On the other end of the spectrum, the gap was 65.9 points in the North East.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “There are 4.4 million disabled people in employment in the UK, the highest since records began, but we know there is more to do.

“Levelling up the playing field for disabled people is a priority for this Government, and that’s why later this year we’ll launch a national strategy to set out how we can better support them so they have equal access to all spheres of life.”

The spokesman added that the Government is spending a record £55 billion a year to support people with disabilities.

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