Government backs social project helping disabled people into work

A new 2 year project to support people with learning disabilities and autism to find work has been launched by the government

The project, backed by £280,000 of Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) investment, will include 4 new picture books to promote group discussions on finding and keeping a job. Beyond Words is a social enterprise which already produces unique books, services and training for people who find pictures easier to understand than words.

Their new project builds on the success of book groups for people with learning disabilities and autism and will be the start of a new focus on 4 stages of employment including leaving school or college, volunteering, finding work and staying in a job.

As part of the project, new book clubs focused on work will be developed across England, where the books will be used to start conversations. People with learning disabilities will be trained as a national network of peer supporters to work with the clubs.

At a launch event in central London, the Work and Pensions Secretary met people who are set to benefit from the project.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Damian Green, said:

“A disability should not dictate the path a person is able to take in life. What should count is a person’s talent and their determination to succeed.

“Beyond Words book clubs help people with a learning disability to break down the barriers they face. It’s a brilliant project that offers people with learning disabilities the support they need. I look forward to working with them.”

People with a learning disability are more excluded from the workplace than any other group of disabled people. More than 65% of people with a learning disability and autism would like a paid job yet only 7% have one and in many cases this is part time work.

As set out in the work, health and disability green paper, working with charities, businesses, community groups and others is central to the government’s ambition to help more disabled people reap the benefits of work.

Baroness Hollins, founder and chair of Beyond Words, who also spoke at the launch event, said:

“The majority of disabled people want to work and hope that they can find work that interests them and recognises their skills. Beyond Words co-creates stories without words with people with learning disabilities that resonate with the reality of their own lives.

“They are stories that help people to understand the ways of the world, to share their own stories and aspirations and to tackle the barriers that prevent them from participating fully in community life.”

Groups of learning disability service providers, employment services and experts with learning disabilities will form an integral part of the project through advisory groups on each book and on training.

Gary Butler, self-advocate and trainer with Beyond Words and St George’s, University of London, said:

“Working makes me feel good, it gives me independence and helps pay the bills. These new books will be good to help other people achieve what I have.”

Stephen Langley, a co-creator of one of the 4 new books, said:

“It can make a difference to people that find it hard to read. People will be able to hope that they can get a job. They can believe in themselves and get work. The story will show what people can do and that we all have more abilities than we realise and we just have to find out what they are.”

Dr. Roger Banks, National Senior Psychiatry Lead, NHS England Learning Disability Programme, and one of the authors of the project, said:

“The impact of being in employment and stable accommodation on health and wellbeing, social inclusion and health inequalities is well recognised in the general population.

“Increasingly this is being addressed for people with learning disabilities for whom having a job can be a significant factor in developing self-esteem, social networks and integration and consequently better physical and mental health.”

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