Department of Health and Social Care
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People with a learning disability will be helped into paid jobs to close the employment gap, Jonathan Shaw, Minister for Disabled People and Phil Hope, Minister for Care Services pledged today.

The goal is set out in the new cross-government Learning Disability Employment Strategy, published today. The strategy sets out a vision to increase the number of real jobs for people with learning disabilities with appropriate support being provided. 

Care Services Minister Phil Hope said:

“Two thirds of people with a learning disability would like to work. Huge progress has been made in getting physically disabled people into employment but more must be done to help people with a learning disability – we’re missing a huge talent pool which employers can tap into.

“This strategy lays out an ambitious but achievable goal - to close the employment gap, for people with learning disabilities.

“The public sector has an important role to play to deliver the strategy, which is why it commits Government departments and the NHS to increasing the number of jobs they offer to people with learning disabilities.”

Minister for Disabled People Jonathan Shaw said:

"This strategy will help thousands more people get into work. We want to make sure everyone gets the help and support they need to overcome their barriers to work, fulfil their potential and build a better life for themselves and their families.

"We have made real improvements over the last decade to the lives of disabled people but there is still more to do, which is why we have committed to do more.”

The strategy, which will focus on adults with moderate and severe learning disabilities, will seek to close the employment gap with a number of measures:

  • It is crucial to promote the fact that people with learning disabilities can work and have careers. The single most important thing is to change, from an early age, expectations about work, and Government will encourage widespread culture change;
  • 400 employment opportunities will be offered to people with learning disabilities across the Department for Work and Pensions, including in Jobcentre Plus;
  • the Department of Health will continue to work with Strategic Health Authorities, the NHS Confederation and NHS Employers to increase the number of people with learning disabilities employed in the NHS;
  • all Government departments will be issued with guidance to help them target people with learning disabilities in recruitment campaigns;
  • Jobcentre Plus staff will continue to be trained to support disabled people, including people with learning disabilities, into work; and
  • job coaches will be recruited to give people with learning disabilities the support they need to find and retain paid employment;
  • good career and skills preparation in schools and colleges;
  • the Office for Disability Issues is today inviting interested organisations to submit proposals to become Project Search sites, and take part in an evaluation of Project Search. Project Search supports people with learning disabilities into paid jobs by providing a series of internships with a host employer.

A delivery plan, to be published alongside the strategy, will set out actions with timescales and responsibilities to ensure progress.


Notes to editors


  1. For media enquiries only please call the Department of Health newsdesk on 0207 210 5221
  2. Valuing People Now: A new three- year strategy for people with learning disabilities –published January 2009 - sets out plans to transform life chances for people with learning disabilities in England for the next three years to 2011.   It included a commitment to publish an employment strategy – Valuing Employment Now – for people with learning disabilities.
  3. This strategy is being published by the Ministers for Social Care and Disabled People, with the full support of Department of Health, Department for Work and Pensions, Office for Disability Issues, Department for Children, Schools and Families, Business, Innovation and Skills, Ministry of Justice and Department for Transport.  This is because research has shown that too often people with learning disabilities are not expected to move into paid work.  The strategy recognises that there needs to be aspirational changes for individuals, parents, carers and educators and employers to achieve a real change to enable more people with learning disabilities to live independently through having paid employment, instead of relying on state benefits.
  4. Valuing Employment Now sets out the Government’s goal to increase radically the number of people with moderate and severe learning disabilities in employment by 2025.  The aim is for as many as possible of these jobs to be at least 16 hours per week in order to close the gap between the employment rate of people with learning disabilities and that of disabled people generally. The current employment rate for disabled people as a whole is 48%.
  5. Project Search is a model developed in Cincinnati Children’s Hospital 13 years ago with proven success in supporting people with moderate to severe learning disabilities into work and staying there.  Over a year, students rotate through a series of supported internships with a host employer. In 2003-2005, 78% of students secured real jobs either with the host employer or elsewhere.
  6. Working with large employers drives culture change, as staff and customers see people with learning disabilities performing a variety of valued roles.  The model now runs in 120 US sites including many hospitals, banks, universities and the Department of Labor.


In this country, Remploy provides job coaches for Project Search sites in Leicester City Council and Leicester College and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Leicester College and City College Norwich provide the tutors. In September 2009, the Royal United Hospital in Bath and North East Somerset will also become a Project Search host employer, in partnership with Fosse Way Special School.


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