People with a learning disability and/or autism face significant barriers to getting a job, so Mencap is celebrating helping local Northampton man Tim Boyle, who has autism, into employment. As a keyworker working in a warehouse through the COVID crisis, Tim is one of the people society has relied on to keep the country moving through the most difficult of times.
This Learning Disability Work Week – taking place 9th - 15th November - the charity is shining a light on the valuable role of people they have supported into work and the contribution they’ve made to the pandemic response.
Tim, from Northampton, was diagnosed with autism in 2018 and, before starting the Mencap traineeship, had been out of work for a year. With support from the charity, Tim got a role working in the Clipper Logistics distribution warehouse in Northampton. Tim started by picking and packaging items for distribution and never looked back. He now he’s now taking on more responsibilities like admin duties and has completed training to be a company first-aider, as well as using his new skills to mentor other new Mencap trainees working in the warehouse. He says:
“Mencap helped me when I first started, and I know what I went through, so I want to help other people. I understand people with autism, or people trying to find a place to fit in.”
The job has also helped Tim’s relationships with other people. He’s made new friends and is able to interact with people in a way he never thought he would before. Reflecting on his journey so far, Tim has advice for others:
“There are people willing to help, like Mencap, and Clipper have gone out of their way to help me too. So don’t give up… I never put myself up for things before. Opportunities came up and I couldn’t take them up. Now I have.”
Employers report that people with a learning disability and/or autism are often dedicated to their job and reduce staff turnover - as well as help to boost staff morale, champion inclusion and enhance diversity within organisations.
Paid employment can help make people feel valued and equal, included in society, and increase their independence and self-esteem. But while people with a learning disability and/or autism can work and want to work, they are often shut out of employment which can have a hugely negative impact on their quality of life.
People Mencap supports have often faced barriers because of stigma, a lack of understanding about learning disability and autism, and unwillingness to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace. Many people simply fall at the first hurdle because the recruitment process is inaccessible.
Often all that is needed is small and cost-effective reasonable adjustments to open the doors for people with a learning disability and/or autism who want to work, such as offering accessible application forms or even something as simple as holding a work trial instead of a traditional job interview. Other adjustments include offering on-the-job support through job coaches who can be provided through government funding.
For Tim, his company has been flexible when he has found things challenging. When the warehouse continued to operate through lockdown everyone had to wear face masks - something that could be very stressful for Tim - but Clipper was understanding and set aside a quiet corner for Tim and other staff to go to, take off their masks and take deep breaths.
Mark Capper, Head of Development in the Lifestyles & Work team at the learning disability charity Mencap, said: “The world of work has been thrown upside down by COVID, now is the time for employers to think differently about who they hire. This year every employer has had to adapt and innovate to support their workforce through this unprecedented time. Including people with different experiences and skills will only enhance businesses and their offer.
“People with a learning disability and autism can work and want to work and with the right support they can also make fantastic employees - with some even working as the keyworkers we’ve all relied on to keep things moving. They just need a chance to show they can do it.”
Through its employment programmes, Mencap supports people with a learning disability and autism to become more independent and develop their employability as well as helping people to find work placements. Work experience, alongside training courses, gives people the real training they need to get on the employment ladder.
Mencap is also inviting employers to find out how they can open their doors to people with a learning disability and/or autism this Learning Disability Work Week. The charity can support with everything from making application processes more accessible through to providing job coaches, ultimately helping to open opportunities for this untapped talent pool.
Find out more about Learning Disability Work Week 2020 at: www.mencap.org.uk/ldworkweek. For advice and support from Mencap for employers and job candidates, visit: https://www.mencap.org.uk/advice-and-support/employment-services.