By Claire Gleeson & Charlotte Crabtree, Keyring
Whilst there are record levels of employment in the UK, there are nearly 715,000 work-capable yet unemployed people with learning disabilities. While 6% of people with learning disabilities are in work, 65% would like to be. In our Oldham service we currently have 14.65% of Network Members who are in employment.
Building independence is the key focus for KeyRing and we investigate with Members (the people we support) what this means for them. Working gives people a feeling of belonging, of usefulness, of meaning. It gives them increased financial independence and a larger network of connections. It reduces reliance on ‘serviceland’ and benefits.
Not only that but it also gives them a positive and influential role in society. It demonstrates the wide variety of skills and potential that people have. It changes perceptions.
Simon has escaped the benefit cycle
Before joining KeyRing, Simon had been using recruitment agencies to help him. They were unable to provide any advice about finances and Simon soon found himself visiting the foodbank. We supported him to budget and helped him to apply for roles that were commutable and used his skill set. We talked about how a role on the continent would be a tricky commute from Oldham!
We arranged to accompany him to interviews and enabled him to plan his bus route. We gave him the confidence and helping hand that he needed to make his desire to work a reality. Simon was able to escape the benefit cycle and achieve financial freedom.
Susan found a role that fit with her health needs
Susan dreamt of becoming a maths teacher but her long-term health condition made a full-time position unlikely. She was doing voluntary work at a local college but longed for more. We supported her to access a Jobcentre Plus Work Coach. We also contacted SMART START who support Greater Manchester residents to grow and sustain their own business. The New Enterprise Allowance and advice received all gave Susan the confidence to start her own maths tuition business. She sets her hours to suit her health needs and is enjoying seeing her students achieve success in their exam results.
Lily is too busy working on her dream to present at A&E
For Lily, her lack of meaningful activity led to her frequently presenting at Accident and Emergency. She had a mountain of debt, a lack of motivation and mental health issues. By starting with her most pressing issue, the mountain of debt, we were able to help Lily find the motivation to seek meaningful activity. As with anyone we support, we helped Lily to think about what her skills are. This turned out to be nail art, which she loved. We helped her investigate how she could turn this hobby into a job. She is now attending a course through Oldham Enterprise and drawing up a business plan. She is making plans to contact HMRC to register as self-employed. She doesn’t have the time to go to A&E, she is just too busy working on her dream. Any time we see her mental health slipping, we help her to refocus on her business goals.
Dan works for KeyRing
Dan tells us: ‘’Just before I became a Member with KeyRing, my life was completely upside down. I was lost, scared and very lonely. I had a massive alcohol issue and was petrified of everything. My confidence was at zero. After two failed detoxes, three hospital admissions and about 12 years of drinking, I finally admitted to myself I needed to seek help. I can quite honestly say that without KeyRing’s support I don’t believe I would still be here today.’’ The confidence he gained, his lived experience and empathy have meant that he was able to get a voluntary role with KeyRing. This then progressed to paid work. He has now been working with us for three years and is a valued member of the team.
Introducing our new employment agency working with people who have learning disabilities
We still felt that we could do more. We are better than many and proud of our successes. It just never felt like enough. So, our successful application for support to develop an ethical employment agency working with people with learning disabilities almost had us dancing on the ceiling. This is being developed with the generous support of Catch22’s Incubate, Accelerate, Amplify programme.
It is more than getting people into work. It is preparing them for it. It is promoting the benefits of employing people with learning disabilities to wary and inexperienced organisations. It is replacing the myths with truths. For example, statistically the people we place remain in role longer and are more present than the general population.
We will provide work–ready candidates, support to both the management teams and the employee (if it is needed) and help secure funding for any necessary adaptations or ongoing support. This is about finding the right people for the right job and doing everything we can to make it sustainable. This is about changing mindsets and proving that the 65% of people with learning disabilities who want to work can do so.
If you are interested in learning more about our employment agency you can read more here: https://www.keyring.org/what-we-do/our-recruitment-agency
Like much of our work, this article is a collaboration.
Charlie Marketing and Communications Manager at KeyRing enjoys sharing stories about Members and challenging the language we use in social care. Other meaningful use of her time includes being a mum, gardening and slapping paint on furniture.
Claire Regional Manager for Oldham, Wales and Warrington loves to see the difference her team makes in the lives of the people they work with. She is always busy and loves it that way. Outside of KeyRing Claire loves her dogs, high impact exercise and socializing with her friends. She recently completed the Tough Mudder challenge.